Review Summary: A very interesting take on ambient Krautrock and early Eno.
It is not hard to guess what ii signifies as the title of the new Ryan Summers album. It is his second under his real name, even though he has been around for a while, operating under different monikers from his basement studio somewhere in Wisconsin. Since he has been doing it for around 20 years now, that has given him ample time to explore the depths of the electronic music, within which he operates.
This has also given him enough time to watch (and listen) to all the developments in electronic music that went on before and alongside his attempts, and on the evidence of this album. He has obviously assimilated some good ideas. The obvious references you can make even on a cursory listen is that Summers has deep knowledge of the German electronic school - Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Harmonia. But when the name of Harmonia is mentioned, it is even more so that he had absorbed all that Brian Eno, one of the participants in that project has done, particularly in his Discreet Records phase, as well as some of his followers, like Apex Twin in his most ambient phase have been doing.
The thing though is that Summers has added an interesting technical twist when producing his electronic sounds - he had a welder friend of his make a reverberation plate through which he processes some of the sounds he makes. Personally, it is hard to discern whether and how some of the sounds on the album were produced, but what reaches the ears does have that needed twist that makes most of the music on ii, like “Sci-Fi Sequence”, “Hypnotic Drones” and “March of the Elephants” sound quite interesting.
Summers did set out to have a specific theme to this album. As he puts it, it is "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..."
Like abstract painting can be watched with two sets of eyes, most of the instrumental electronic music can be heard with two sets of ears - those of the artist himself and those of the listener(s). You can accept Ryan’s vision of his interpretation(s) of social media through music, or you may not, but he did come up with quite an accomplished album of electronic music. What you do get is that there are periods of peacefulness and dreamlike states, but also those of agitation, as if the author was passing through a nightmare.
The key is though in the fact that you can discern, and even more so, enjoy those states Summers has produced. An electronic artist to watch.