Ryan Summers - ii (Self-released, 2018)
Wisconsin-based electronic artist Ryan Summers recently released “ii,” a darkwave LP that explores ambient soundscapes with a wide assortment of chilling and arpeggiating synths. Summers has spent several years working in his basement studio on various group projects, and has only recently emerged as an independent creator. His sound is a charming blend of micro-tonal and lo-fi experimentation, with each track off the new album evoking its own dystopian microcosm.
The cascading layers of synthetic croons and minimalistic percussion expertly sew together a sonic journey. “Sci-Fi Sequence,” “Transactive Memory Partner,” and “March of the Elephants,” for example, all feel very intentionally linear. It’s as if Summers has grabbed us by the hand and jerked us into a universe of shadows and slo-mo. Drum tracks bloom under the melody like a sea of crickets. Like an old Vermeer, our attention is able to latch on to whatever we choose, and in doing so we fall victim to the hypnosis.
But what had previously cornered us in a plastic film of ambience, turns suddenly organic, serene, and hospitable in “From the Coneflower.” A rumbling dissonance finds closure with piercingly high pitched notes that arc across the foreground. The atmosphere shapeshifts from foreboding to hopeful to phenomenally ambiguous.
It is this loving attention to detail that makes Summers’s album feel less like a bunch of standalone songs thoughtlessly compacted into one release and more like a cohesive body of work. There is an ongoing narrative embedded in “ii”—a mythos of catastrophe, exploration, growth, and rebirth.
- Gabe Kahan
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