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Classic Album Review

Album Review: What The Heck Is This And Why Did I Download It Edition

If you are anything like me, the organization process on your music streaming app is a little chaotic. My YouTube music library is split into more tabs and sections than I know what to do with, and it’s not uncommon for me to completely forget what an album or video was supposed to be before I even listen to it. I always cherish these little mix-ups because they give me the opportunity to click play on something without the faintest preconception of what’s on the other side. Usually, I remember where I encountered an album after the first couple of songs, but this time… I’ve got to admit I’m stuck. This album has been on my phone for the better part of 8 months, and out of some masochistic exercise in music writing, I’ve decided to forgo any investigation as to what is or where it came from before writing this article.

So, what is “Suzanne Ciani – Buchla concerts 1975 (full album)?” Well, I’m not quite sure, but I know I like it.  The album is entirely electronic, and as such I assume it must have been at the very forefront of synthesizer technology, considering the sheer range of sound presented on it. It’s also clear that Ciani has a great deal of musical talent, in addition to her technological knowledge, because despite being almost entirely atonal, the songs have a clear progression and resonance that is rare even among the best avant-garde musicians. The songs have structure, they have an emotional impact, and judging by the recording, they were consistent and planned enough to be reproducible in concert. They aren’t mere technical demonstrations or conceptual pieces, they were crafted. This puts Ciani a flying leap ahead of her contemporaries, obvious comparison points like Steve Reich and Wendy Carlos were yet to really make the leap into fully electronically compositions. Reich was, at that time, just layering electronic sounds in procedural ways, while Carlos was playing Bach pieces on a synthesizer and calling it a day.

It would appear that Ciani was also had a great deal of influence on the course of electronic music. The more aggressive moments in this are reminiscent of the noise and power electronic bands that were to come. Had she come onto the scene a few years later, Ciani could have been a musical match for Merzbow or Prurient. She also has a great deal of classical appeal, which judging by the short audience interludes on this album, was her target demographic then. If you have any interest in these genres, or just want to take a blind leap into something altogether strange and exciting, I highly recommend this album. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to google this women’s name so I can find out the many dumb mistakes and obvious oversights I made in writing this article.

-Aidan Farmer