Ryan Summers is again with one thing fully completely different (once more)
When Your EDM first clocked Ryan Summers with his second album in 2018, ii in our New Artist Spotlight, he was just getting started, but was showing promising results as an experimental electronic artist left of center. The booming ambient noises of singles like “Nightshift” and the aptly named “Hypnotic Drones” conjured up images of strange German art porn and possibly the sound an aneurysm makes before it bursts. Relaxing yet terrifying, Summers had already found an amazing niche in his work, and apparently he has cultivated that niche and has it since ii. With his latest album Undo Influence, this niche is about the width of a chinchilla hair.
Throughout 2020, Summers released a number of singles leading up to Undo Influence, but none of them came close to what was to be expected on this album as they were more in line with ii instrumental drone. Undo Influence still has a hefty drone in it, but it’s also unusually rich in lyrics, rock influence and, most surprisingly, a hefty dose of country. Talk about carving a narrow niche.
The opening section of Undo Influence would certainly be the most rural, with the electronic background really only there to create atmosphere. The album opener “Chasm” (there is this niche again) is driven by a very sparsely selected acoustic guitar and a foil, and the vocals are structured like a rock or pop song: verse, chorus verse. As the track opens, more EDM-style beats and synthesizers roll in, turning the track into an incredibly novel industrial / junkyard country hybrid. One has the impression of walking through the desert accompanied by UFOs.
As we go further into the album, more acoustics and analog instruments are woven into tracks, but the country feel is sort of gone until “Holy Criminal” hits which are pretty industrial and filled with vintage rave synthesizers and backing programs are. The drone then returns with “Let Us Pray,” whose industrial drums and lively synthesizers channel some key She Wants Revenge vibes. At the end of the album, “Osiris Stone” brings back Summers’ original sound with the visceral sound design and almost dreamy ambient synthesizers that we expect from the mad scientist of the drone.
Album Closer “There’s Nothing for Me Here” goes back to analog, but is easily the most emotional and personal track on the album, revealing not only the new styles and forms that Summers has been working on, but also the story of who what he was getting along with. For a musician who is so good at conjuring up vivid, visceral experiences without vocals, the addition of his honest, narrative lyrics takes that experience to a whole new level for both his fans and himself. Some things are better said with words.
Ryan Summers took many risks on Undo Influence, but it seems the journey to make this album came with an emotional journey that he went through. So it could be more of a mirror to work out feelings through music than anything else. It seems, no matter what, that new perspectives have been reached with this album and the vulnerability it contains. Summers seems to be asking listeners to “undo” their preconceptions and listen as openly and rawly as he created it.
Undo Influence is now available and can be streamed on Spotify or Bandcamp. Also check out his sound design and tech videos on Ryan Summers’ YouTube channel.