A washed out NTSC TV show plays back on a PAL TV via an ageing VCR. The picture flickers at the edges and the details are blurred in the colour-ways of transatlantic screen burn. Ford is in the White House, Bowie’s twitching and sniffling with the young Americans on the Dick Cavett show, and on the screen, like a techno-hip Karen Carpenter, a young Italian American woman is conjuring the sounds of the future and extolling the virtues of pure synthesized sound. The forces of international capitalism are gathering to annex these sounds to the lifestyle choices that will help define both the remains of this decade and the next. This is the age of the Atari games console, the Betamax VCR, the IBM computer and the Buchla synthesiser – all consumer facing innovations that further engender a sense that the ‘new’ must always have an appropriate soundtrack. Those Buchlas and Moogs, Prophets and Arps, born of their inventor’s imaginations, were also used to soundtrack the mainstream commercials of Coca Cola and Almay, Atari and ITT, and in the hands of synth innovator Suzanne Ciani, enabled her to envision her Sounds of a Dream: Kissing and Princess with Orange Feet.
Lixiviation is a collection of Suzanne Ciani’s mid 1970s recordings, spanning her commercial ad work, ‘library’ style production music and experimental electronica, mostly made on the legendary Buchla modular synthesiser. It is understandable that her current label, Finders Keepers, want to situate this heady brew within temptingly current reference points – the press release describes Ciani as ‘America’s Delia Derbyshire for the post Atari age’, but none of this hyperbole diminishes the uniform excellence of the works on show, which allow us privileged access to a technological journey from the mid 70s to the 80s, always foregrounding the beauty of cutting-edge electronic sounds in all their elemental glory. To set this in a current context, decades on, Ciani’s magical, pioneering ambient soundscapes might be seen as distant relatives of Oneohtrix Point Never’s slow burning arpeggiated journeys, as well as the wows and flutterings of glitch synthesists such as Flying Lotus, Rustie and Lone.
This is soulful, essential electronic music, which captivates, enchants, and delights. Immerse yourself and you may find, like me, a burning desire to uncover more of the enchanting and inspirational sounds of Ciani Musica.