“When one thinks of the consistently brilliant Erased Tapes label, it’s the likes of Nils Frahm or Peter Broderick that spring to mind first. While this is for good reason, it is easy to avoid the fact that it was Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles, who was the imprint’s first signing. On his multiple releases for the label, West has established Rival Consoles as arguably the most texturally vibrant artist on the roster, each output bursting with rich electronic soundscapes and immersive glitchy aesthetics. Howl continues along the same innovative path that Rival Consoles has been heading down for some years now, delving into further levels of emotional depth in the process.
The new emotional elements explored on Howl are often done so with just a hint of nostalgic warmth. ‘3 Laments’, for example, includes a rare sample of West‘s own voice. Not that you would know it, such is the amount of Lapalux-esque crackling and swirling distortion that makes it sound like West is yearning for some entity that has long-since passed. The album’s title track follows a similar vein, it’s drawn-out synth wails the inspiration for the records title and an expression of a cold desperation seemingly only achievable in such styles of music. The track also contains several nods to Nils Frahm‘s more electronic moments, as does much of the LP to other Erased Tapes contemporaries, such as the very Kiasmos-like ‘Afterglow’.
There are other parallels to be drawn with some of the electronic world’s best-known innovators; Autechre, Aphex and Clark to name but a few. Yet Rival Consoles consistently demonstrates so much depth of character through unexpected combinations of sonic textures and very visual, almost tactile soundscapes that ensure that Howl is a welcome addition to the genre rather than a simple supplement. It is the album’s ability to create such an immersive experience with relatively few constituent parts that makes this Ryan Lee West‘s finest release to date.”
William Moss | thefourohfive.com