Ryan Summers does not make your typical EDM, to say the least. In fact, the “D” is all but missing in his second album, ii. If there’s any kind of dancing, it’s probably the weird modern German kind with people dressed in weird harnesses, heaving onstage with contorted faces. Nonetheless, as an electronic producer, Summers definitely makes some beautiful ambient sound.
Summers’ sophomore album seems to have a different vibe to it than 2017’s F51.01, but it’s hard to pinpoint. Summers himself seems to have envisioned a theme to this album, and that may be where the difference comes in.
“[It’s] a pensive collection of songs, largely inspired by what was coming through my social feeds at the time. I think I was picking up on this anxiety stemming from authoritarian politics, AI tech, and the ‘like’ economy.”
When considering what Summers was thinking while making this album, a lot more context comes into view with the subtle, not-so-ambient sounds that make up many of the tracks on ii. “Hypnotic Drones” for example has an electrically-charged synth which would seem like a digital lullaby if it weren’t so creepy. Behind that is the distinct buzz of “white noise,” or is it static from all the devices we use that we’ve come to find soothing? Similarly in “Recharging,” there’s a beautiful, sort of sleepy melody with lots of feedback attached to it. The way this ambient noise ebbs and swells, one can almost picture the EMFS moving from the USB port into a device – or a person.
Not all the tracks on ii are so intense and eerie. “Sci-Fi Sequence” is a fun, experimental take on the old sci-fi theme tunes, re-vamping and creating more elements so that it has a different type of impact. Another highlight is “March of the Elephants,” which has a more classic ambient vibe, describing what the sound made the artist thing of without need of too much background story. It’s called “March of the Elephants” and that’s what it makes the listener think of with its plodding beat and trombone-inspired synths. It’s the only track on the whole album with a discernible beat, but again, dancing to this one might be tough.
Ambient and experimental artists like Ryan Summers and his many predecessors are important to EDM from a technical standpoint. Especially when it comes to sound design, they’re on the leading edge. These producers who use classical techniques and tinker around in the lab until they create a sound no one has heard before are the ones acts like Noisia watch for the new big thing. Summers in fact created a large metal plate through which to run his synth softwares, creating the unique buzz and other drone effects on ii. Pretty much any EDM producer would likely love to get their hands on that gear. Dance, maybe not, but definitely electronic and definitely cutting-edge. Give ii a try.