2020’s cavalcade of top summer releases continues with Rival Consoles‘ Articulation, the follow-up to 2018’s remarkable Persona. This summer is unlike any we can remember, as many artists prefer to wait until fall; but we need it now, and we’re grateful.
As befits its title, the composition of Articulation reflects complex concepts, many of which are mathematical; but the joy is in the listening. This is an album for dancing, for grooving, for just chilling out. The set is both modern and retro, flexible in appeal. Reminiscent of the classic mixes of the Global Underground series, the pieces meld techno and trance in such a way as to invite the segue: best heard in the transition between tracks one and two. With nods to industrial music (notably “Forwardism”), the album may attract darker listeners as well. Steady beats are met by a sense of forward propulsion. Small melodies weave through larger frames.
Ryan Lee West composed Articulation while drawing geometric figures, activating neurons through purposeful synaesthesia. The so-called “mechanical” nature of the sound is a reflection of angles and equations, yet somehow the album still sounds warm. The accelerations of the title track remind us of the human behind the machine. Ironically, the cover looks a lot like Erased Tapes’ recent experiments in braille, but is a stylized depiction of the title: West articulates through image as well as sound. The colors swirl in the promo video as they do in West’s imagination.
Some swaths of the album are beatless. Where absent, percussion is suggested by steadiness. While it does contain percussion, the final track is inspired not by beats, but by birds. “Sudden Awareness of Now” seems to promote mindfulness, or at least the great outdoors. This has been an intriguing quirk of the pandemic, last encountered on Pantha du Prince’s Conference of Trees. When clubs are closed, where might once dance to club music? The obvious answers are at home, on a balcony or in a motor rave, but perhaps the more revitalizing answer is a forest or beach. Club music is a communal genre, formerly understood to be communion with others, now suggesting communion with nature as well. Like the best club music, Articulation produces an expansion of generosity, a oneness not only with the next dancer, but all of creation ~ and this without a single recreational drug. (Richard Allen)