- Ethan Wells, 7 0 0 M P H
As I recently told Vermont Public Radio's Mary Engisch on an episode of her local music program "Safe and Sound," Ethan Wells' music is like a love letter from a robot. I referred to a track from his 2017 LP, Pax Romana, a symphony of new-age electronica he released under the name Ebn Ezra. My on-air description more than holds up on his new record, 700 MPH.
Wells yearns for love — to give and receive it. And the Milton artist does so like someone whose programming directs him to do nothing but. On his new album, Wells is fresh off the factory floor, booted up and ready to execute his prime directive. Across a whopping 18 tracks of electronic bliss, he breathes and sighs vaporous pillow talk and proclaims bold testaments with cybernetic precision.
Pax Romana and 700 MPH share some similarities. Wells' reverb-smudged vocal effect carries over, as does his inclination to synth-driven pop. But if Pax Romana floated out of a lush greenscape, 700 MPH radiates from a high-tech city. And as its title hints, the new effort drives faster and harder into dance music. Wells keeps the majestic atmosphere but works up more of a sweat.
The polyhedral prism of Wells' music reflects myriad variations on the same experience — perhaps the one that sparked this automaton to life. Over and over, he lingers on touching, embracing and physical closeness. Overdriven beats stand in for the rush of blood and hormones — or, in Wells' case, code — that spike with a first kiss. Why wouldn't a sentient android be obsessed with its newly activated senses?
Often with few or no words, Wells deftly fabricates cinematic imagery. Eighties-tinged "Tears in the Rain" evokes steam rising off hot pavement as a summer downpour drenches the singer's face, already soaked with tears. "I get misty / When you tell me / That you love me," he murmurs. Arpeggiated banger "Take Me to Tokyo" flies the listener over a neon-jeweled cityscape. And wordless "City Loop" rolls smoothly through a glassy metropolis.
"My Girl" shares some bitmapping with the Temptations' Motown classic of the same name, a sort of callback to Pax Romana's tech-rock slow jam, "Gimme Back My Baby." Its half-speed foundation of bass and bitcrushed handclaps props up Wells' moody, metallic melody.
While dreaminess and hyperactivity may seem diametrically opposed, for Wells they're inextricably linked. And whomever he's singing about is lucky to be loved so intensely.
700 MPH is available at ethancwells.bandcamp.com.