Rival Consoles

Night Melody

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Night Melody is Ryan Lee West's first Rival Consoles release following the breakup of a 13-year relationship. The short album is relatively straightforward, with six tracks of subdued, atmospheric techno -- no filler, no beating around the bush. The album isn't quite as dark or sad as one might expect, given the context. It seems like a logical extension of the path he's been taking with his previous few recordings. He generally builds up tracks with wobbly, slightly nervous tremolo riffs and shaky, grainy beats that subtly slither in rather than whomp into the center stage. The songs progress at a suspenseful, well-timed pace, with frayed shoegaze-like textures and wistful melodies entering at the right moments. West incorporated live instrumentation into the songs on his previous album, and it's hard to tell if there are live guitars and drums on this one, as the instruments are so well blended and carefully considered. This is undoubtedly music that feels like it was assembled by hand rather than generated or programmed, even though it's unmistakably electronic music. The album's highlight is its longest cut, the seven-minute "Johannesburg," which rides a steadily galloping beat to an emotional but not overdramatic ending. "Lone" has an uptempo skipping beat rather than an even 4/4 thump, along with wavy synth melodies, and it expresses uncertainty and insecurity, but also anticipation. While there's certainly a sorrowful theme to this album, it doesn't seem like West is merely interested in creating dark, depressing music; there's still something hopeful and encouraging about it.

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