Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy
RVNG Intl.

One imagines that each installment in FRKWYS, RVNG Intl.'s intergenerational collaboration series, could go in any number of possible directions. On the one hand, a noticeable conflict might arise when artists are brought together whose styles and working methods for whatever reason prove to be incompatible; another set of artists, on the other hand, might connect so naturally, one could be forgiven for imagining the two had worked together for years before their FRKWYS session transpired. That latter scenario very much applies in the case of Sunergy, the thirteenth chapter in the FRKWYS series and the creative spawn of synthesists Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani.

Like Smith, Ciani, the elder of the two, has long been a Buchla synthesizer enthusiast. Her exploration of the instrument's potential dates back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, an engagement that crystallized in the release of her 1982 debut album Seven Waves and relatedly the founding of her label, Seventh Wave. Smith, who wasn't yet born when Seven Waves arrived, grew up in Orcas Island, Washington and in recent years has seen her profile rapidly rise with the 2014 release of Tides and, two years later, Ears. Despite the age gap, the two, discovering themselves to be Bolinas, California neighbors, developed a close friendship solidified in part by their shared appreciation for the Buchla synthesizer. To create Sunergy, Ciani and Smith armed themselves with the Buchla 200 E and the Buchla Music Easel, respectively, and arranged their synths side-by-side in the living room of Ciani's cliff-side home, which, nestled by the Pacific Ocean, offers an ideal visual catalyst for the kind of extemporaneous music-making at which the two excel.

At twenty-three minutes the recording's longest track, “A New Day” lives up to its title in the way it gradually blossoms. During its many explorative episodes, the Buchlas endlessly burble and flutter, sometimes violently so, and one easily pictures the two synthesists developing the material in tandem, attending and responding on-the-fly to the other's impulses. Deep bass tones provide a stable anchor for the flurries and whooshes that relentlessly swirl overtop, and it's almost impossible to hear said whooshes and not immediately think of waves crashing ashore at that Bolinas location.

The significantly shorter “Closed Circuit” opens with three minutes of bubbly sequencer-like patterns before serving up geyser after geyser of sunshowers, while the eighteen-minute bonus track “Retrograde” (available only on the CD and digital versions) offers a supplemental treatment of the album's material. It bears worth mentioning that Sunergy isn't an exercise in placid, New Age noodling but instead a collection of highly charged explorations by intensely focused adventurers. Don't be surprised if images of tropical forests, sunblinded travelers, ocean vistas, and screeching birds arise as the duo's oft-psychedelic aural visions come into being.

August 2016