Overflow is a dance album, composed for Alexander Whitley’s production of the same name; but some of the tracks have enormous club potential as well. The album also manages the rare feat of being a dynamic home listen; as the music spins, one may design one’s own lawn or living room choreography.
The album’s concept is personified in a limited number of tracks, and may not be apparent without the liner notes. Inspired by the influence of social media, data mining and the political divide, Rival Consoles‘ music represents the depersonalization of humanity in the digital age. “I Like” seems at first a grammarian’s nightmare, but is revealed to be the mapping of a dancer’s monologue. The title track scrambles words into syllables, assigning them as percussion until they are swallowed by the larger forces of beats, ticks and chords. “The Cloud Oracle” overlaps advertising pitches, suggesting overload through repetition: sound without fury, still signifying nothing. And the sullen, slow-beat “Scanning” amplifies the innards of an iPhone while the user is on social media. These bookmarks serve as reminders of the theme; but the deepest cuts sneak into the subconscious, conveying the message in a subtler fashion.
“Monster” is the first big set piece, a ten-minute leadoff salvo that takes its time, creeping forward and falling back, suggesting an unseen, unknown danger. A re-sequencing of the tracks would lead directly to “Hands” and preserve the flow. In the same manner as a suspense film is more effective through suggestion than reveal, Overflow is best when it extends the tone of foreboding. “Pulses of Information” dislodges the listener with its first note, establishing drama without alarm; this duty is left to “Noise Call and Response I,” which lurks behind walls of machinery, waiting for its other half to sprout into a percussive, synth-graced workout.
While most electronic albums are top-heavy, Overflow hides its finest cuts in the back of the store. At twelve minutes, “Flow State” is the natural heir to “Monster” and embodies its title, becoming a prime candidate for a deep progressive DJ set, a la Global Underground. The concept of patience becomes important as a counterbalance to the quick cut culture of a screen-swiping world. Large chords sweep in at around the six minute mark, long after other tracks have ended. The dancers are building to a grand finale. But first there is elegance: a soft retreat in the seventh minute, the excision of beats, harp-like electronics traveling speaker-to-speaker. In the twelfth track, a tribal drum line raises the dancers to their tired feet for one last stomp.
The amazement of the album is that it was written for bodies, but still makes a strong impression at home. Once this show is on the road next year, all this will change; we’ll get to see and hear the full production as it was intended. A mere sixty seconds of choreography below are all it takes to raise our anticipation to a fever pitch. (Richard Allen)