With some very computer-like beeps and boops, “Digital Memory” lurches into a jagged, hip-hop-inflected verse, the syllables piling up at the end of each line, and each succeeding line adding more syllables to the pile-up. You rarely hear rapping and singing blended so effectively, as Ramos really does seem to be doing both at the same time. You also rarely hear this kind of rapid-fire outpouring of words so fully framed by the underlying music rather than merely grounded in the confluence of beat and rhyme. It’s cool in fact to hear how Ramos isn’t really rhyming that much here, which to me gives the rapping an unexpected allure. (A confession: my ear has never been attuned to the kinds of conspicuous rhyming hip-hop fans appear to treasure.)
The chorus—concise and mysterious—is sung, the rhythmic hiccup of the verse slightly smoothed out but still intact. It is not clear what Ramos is singing about specifically but the overall vibe is at once troubling and peppy, the sound of a man coming to grips with life’s vicissitudes, or trying to.
Ramos (first name pronounced the Spanish way: dah-VEED) is a drummer by trade; he was in fact named one of the top 10 progressive drummers by Modern Drummer magazine while still a student at Wesleyan University. He played for years in the loose-knit ensemble Anonymous Inc., along with his brother Ceschi. “Digital Memory” is from Ramos’s third solo album, Sento La Tua Mancanza (“I miss you”), which was written in the aftermath of the death of his grandmother, who had been a kind of parent to him (his father was an addict, and not there for him). Ramos had gone to Wesleyan largely because it was not too far from her, and upon graduating he started the label Fake Four right in New Haven, where she lived. With his grandmother’s health declining, Ramos moved in with her and did not leave the state for three years. She died in 2010.