Two things come to mind when I think tennis. The first is my dad, a tennis enthusiast to this day, who taught me the game. As a left-hander, I developed a fierce backhand which fed into what dad thought was the most exciting part of the sport: watching your opponent scurry for the ball you hit over to them.
The second association is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, an obsessive and extended account of, among other things, tennis. If you just don’t have the patience to digest the thousand-word tome (I don’t blame you), our relevant scene was immortalized in the Decemberists’ music video for “Calamity Song.”
In the book, a tennis court hosts the game of Eschaton. Players “bomb” key sections of the court which represent various world alliances. The game eventually decays as the students resort to their immaturities.
No doubt Indian Wells knows this because he too is infatuated with tennis. His new single begins and ends with the distinct sound of tennis balls being battered from one end of the court to the other. It’s a sound so subtle and yet recognizable to all of us. The rubber hitting against nylon strings is deeper than a ping pong ball, yet shallower than a basketball, and brief enough to provide a percussive sample with which to build an entire track.
Wallace’s novel takes us into the despair of suicidal ideation, of which tennis provides only momentary solace. Indian Wells’ single begins with the pinging ball beat as the emotionless surge of the game. A slow, chill groove emerges, crescendoing in the majestic style of Tycho or Telefon Tel Aviv. It’s a testament to Indian Wells’ skill that a tennis ball can carry an entire track, and when the more melodic elements take over, the song is none the more jarring for it. After the build, these elements fade away, leaving only the tennis players, practicing their backhands.
“Racquets” is available August 26th via Bad Panda Records.