“Jimi Hendrix said you need fantasy,” says Toronto’s Lydia Ainsworth, “to see reality more clearly.” On her sublime second album, Darling of the Afterglow, Ainsworth upholds Hendrix’s wisdom in the best way. Vividly imagined and richly felt, the follow-up to Ainsworth’s Juno-nominated Right from Real (2014) is an album of intimate emotions projected in heightened widescreen, where yearning pop classicism and classical smarts merge with other-worldly synthetic sounds and weird-gothic R&B influences.
For Ainsworth, it represents a great leap of confidence from her prodigious debut, whether she’s conjuring the crystalline harmonies and death’s-head rhythms of ‘The Road’, the lush earworm pop of ‘Ricochet’ or the small-hours reverie of ‘WLCM’. Blessed with an extraordinarily supple voice, Ainsworth commits herself fully on all fronts, honouring the words of ‘Afterglow’: “To play it safe is not to play at all.”
The haunting cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ is a test-case; embracing its vocal challenges live, Ainsworth relished stepping outside her comfort zone. “I usually have to be out of my element to get that spark of inspiration,” she says. The album title itself came to her while she was out of her element, explains Ainsworth, living near LA’s Echo Park - home to the Art Deco statue ‘Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles’ (Queen of the Angels). “Walking around the lake just after sunset at a time when I was desperate for human connection, I found comfort in this statue. She gave me the inspiration for the lyrics to the song. It was as if she was singing them to me.” Pass the message on: Darling of the Afterglow is a bold, beautiful album from a voice ready to be heard.
Jim-E Stack has come a long way. Born and raised in the culturally rich environs of San Francisco, the now Brooklyn-based artist born James Harmon Stack cut his musical teeth on the drums at a young age. His true love was playing jazz in both his high school band and local groups, but it wasn’t until he entered the world of solo production at the tender age of 16 that he found the freedom necessary to write and record how he wanted. During 2008, he eagerly worked on hip-hop beats inspired by DJ Premier and J Dilla, coloring those sketches in Logic with bits of UK grime and Baltimore club sounds à la Blaqstarr and Karizma. Once he started sneaking into clubs in 2009, he uncovered the seeds of what would become the burgeoning producer we now know as Jim-E Stack, a journey which started with a set at SF’s renowned 222 Hyde from Fade to Mind boss Kingdom.
After moving from the West Coast to New Orleans, where he enrolled at Loyola University to study music technology and production, Jim-E Stack made his first splash with a bass-loaded version of Nguzunguzu’s “Mirage”, a well-received remix that eventually landed him his first official release. 2011’s Come Between EP was a bright and drum-focused offering that signaled the arrival of a viable production talent whose fresh perspective on club-ready music was lauded by DJs and tastemakers around the world. (BBC Radio 1 host Benji B went so far as to play the entire EP on his program for weeks before and after it was released.) It was an important moment for Stack, though it would also make for a serious obstacle in his creative journey’s next step: the debut album.
After moving to New York in summer of 2012, James quickly made friends with Shlohmo and his Wedidit crew, frequented the Lit City Raves at 285 Kent, and started the slow process of writing his first full-length record Tell Me I Belong LP, 10 diverse tracks representing the culmination of their creator’s musical experience thus far.
London-based producer Ryan Lee West, better known under the name Rival Consoles, is notable for making synthesisers sound human and atmospheric. With the release of his ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Sonne’ EPs, West has gained a reputation for making thoughtful electronica that spans a wide spectrum of musical ideas. Foremost a guitarist, growing up listening to rock rather than club music, his last full-length album ‘Howl’ sees West strive towards finding a more personal balance between music for home listening and larger spaces.
August 5th marks the release of Ryan’s new 34-minute, 6-track mini album ‘Night Melody’, born out of and shaped by long hours working into the night. It’s nocturnal in sound; mysterious in the way that the early hours so often are.
“I found myself, in a silent home, with the days getting dark very early. I’ve never before in my life been affected by the lack of light so much. I just remember it always being night time. I would either make music into the night, go out drinking with friends, or go to parties and dance into the early hours, every day, week after week, month after month, until eventually the days became brighter again.”
It’s rarely reported that Rival Consoles was Erased Tapes’ very first signing, with a CDR of early demos under the name Aparatec that inspired founder Robert Raths to start the label. Indeed West has more in common with his contemporaries Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick than some might think. His consistent desire to create a more organic, humanised sound sees West often draft early ideas on traditional, acoustic instruments like the guitar or the piano; forming pieces that capture a sense of songwriting behind the electronics.
Fascinated by sound from an early age, Ryan chose to dedicate his time to studying, experimenting with and producing sound, graduating from De Montfort University in his hometown Leicester. Having repeatedly performed at such prestigious venues as the Tate, and having created a bespoke audio-visual performance for Boiler Room at the V&A Museum, the blueprint for West’s current live A/V show was formed. Featuring self-programmed visuals in Max/MSP has earned him appearances at music festivals around the world including Moogfest, FORM: Arcosanti, Mutek, Decibel, Big Ears and Berghain’s Pop-Kultur Festival, as well as tours in support of Clark, Nosaj Thing, Luke Abbott and Kiasmos.
Summer 2016 will see Ryan follow on from his recent North American Tour with the appearance at many festivals including Lovebox, Secret Garden Party, La Route Du Rock, Sea Change and Tale of Us-curated Afterlife party at Space, Ibiza. ‘Night Melody’ will be available on 12” vinyl and digitally, August 5th.