Ryan Summers – F51.01

Album rating: 7.4 – Sound of insomnia

Photo: Courtesy of Independent Music Promotions

Based in Wisconsin, Ryan Summers is a multi-genre producer who has been songsculpting trance, rock, folk, rave, alternative and ambience in the past two decades. He is also part of the Midwest Soul Xchange alongside with his Arizona-based friend. Their debut LP, New American Century, gained wide acclaim form fans and press alike. Summers’ latest project, F51.01, is the byproduct of his personal struggle with insomnia. Released back in February 10, his new record is a fusion of experimental electronica and ambient music.

Ryan Summers toys with the haunting presence of insomnia and slow-burning melodies without relying on a single word. His record, F51.01, is a peculiar one that sounds like it was designed to cure your sleep deprivation and at the same time, serve as a compliment. The opener, “Beneath The Ice,” immediately sinks you to an uneasy strumming of synths and meticulous rhythmic arrangements that open space for dark meditation. Once you’ve settle into this space, Summers seeps you the awareness of time with his eerie, tickling track “Clock Works,” which sonically resembles the dreadful countdown that weighs every insomniac in the late hours of the night.

“Power Relay Unit” is much like the beginning track – it anchors a constant hazy intensity from beginning to end that feels like it was meant to keep you company through sleepless hours. Yet, it feels a bit redundant and lacks the novelty flavor of the opener. But the following song, “Well Tuned,” atones for it by lightening up the intensity of the previous three via its lilting strings. It is a breather that actually feels like it was meant to sedate you.

F51.01 is not meant for comfort meditation where you can let your mind wander. Instead, it opts for a more mindful trajectory where you shuffle through your dooming thoughts. “Φ” resonates the soundtrack of a thriller that reminds you of psychologically twisted characters such as Hannibal. The hissing buzz and throbbing notes stretch into long and thin electronic strands that resonate a more bone-chilling sound than music. It feels theatrical – as if you were part of a thriller. “Music Box” quickly drifts you back to the dark contemplative realm with its howling harmony that slips into your ears like smoke. The tinkling momentums add some concreteness to the hazy soundscape as if it was meant to impede you from fully falling into a brain blackout.

Photo: Album cover. Courtesy of Independent Music Promotions

We are suspended in that same form of initial intensity in “Solenoid,” which can become a bit redundant for novelty seekers. “Native Warning,” however, makes it up with its gory chimes and slithering vibe that injects us with the theatrical thriller chills. Perhaps the most soothing track is the exiting one, “Logos,” which feels like alpha waves entering straight into your central nervous system. It is pure ambience and sounds like it was designed to actually tackle your insomnia after playing it with it for eight tracks.

Summers’ record feels like an alchemical mix of warped electronics and surreal ambiance that delivers a complex, subtle kick. For those who have wrestled with restless nights, Summers captures the despair and hope one meditates at each passing hour.

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