Ben Ricketts is from the Midwest, which is weird because the coldness of his album Summer Anthems for the Digital Age is classic New York No-Wave. Hah, you though I was going to say cold wave, huh? Ok, maybe not. The album's title has the word summer but these are clearly bits of winter weirdness here. On the instrumental “Mozart Drives a Chevrolet,” the music gets drone, then shimmery, then just weird like in that Pink Floyd song "Bike," only with voices instead of sounds. "The Code" opens with a dark, jail cell beat that gives way to synth lines, à la Stanley Kubrick. Then the vocals kick in. Oily and empathetic, it's an excellent companion to the music, which brings out the same feelings. It's easy to experience moments of frightening depth, as if you're swimming over a dark hole, especially during the ascending tape loops that punctuate the song. It's a very slow, very frightening putdown to the man: "The paper in the mailbox is lying to your face. Crooked teeth and burn marks, light is becoming dark."
The rest of the album sounds just as sinister. Ricketts does not mess around with comfort. He constructs shelters made of bruised synth lines only to claw at the exteriors with dissonant beats. Like, you ever wonder what Xiu Xiu would sound like if they attempted to write actual songs? Maybe that puts a bit too much emphasis on the darkness of Summer Anthems for the Digital Age, because you will want to be on the look out for the rays of sunlight cutting into the gaol like "Martian Summer," which is separated by a mere instrumental track from "The Code," with its merry-go-round of synth lines and friendly, or at least neutral, beat pattern.
Ultimately, it's the instrumentals that bring this album down. They're not bad and they're decent set-ups for the songs they precede but they're also just kind of there. I almost said the same for the erratic closer "Comatose Dreaming" until the tribal percussion clicked in at the end.
I'm going to go listen to "The Code" again. My parting words are you should check this out.
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