With subtle peaks and micro-sized builds, Ryan Davis has mastered personal techno.
Routes of Life's colorful three tracks (along with its pair of remixes) are dazzling down to their smallest details. Raindrop synth tones dot slowly rushing melodies on Ryan Davis's very non-club tech house debut for Traum Schallplatten. The EP marks noticeable growth for the producer compared to his leaner, listless "Zodiac", issued on Archipel in 2009. In the two years since "Zodiac" took shape, Davis has evolved astronomically, paring down his techno sound into a personal form that feels both fragile and awfully sad.
Beats are an afterthought on Routes of Life, and Davis's song-driven immediacy goes on to characterize the EP so that each piece seems to travel the course of verse, chorus and bridge. Glassy glockenspiels ping out a resonant lead on the A-side "Roads" while Davis's back-corner synths spread out in choral textures through builds and subtle peaks. Elastic bass pulses on "Sideways" rumble beneath an array of plinks similar to those found in Nathan Fake's work or in Stephan Bodzin's smaller-scaled, chimes-ridden frenzies. Indeed, Routes of Life is a micro-sized tease, toying with booming psychedelia amid woozy arrangements of pitch-bent faux guitar and echoing synth lines. Through its soft interplay of fraying drones and percussive ticks, this release never gives, retaining instead the downcast theme that Ryan Davis has evidently perfected.