I, Synthesist

[Art of Survival sleeve]"Art of Survival" (Album, 2007)

Satellite Symphonics

If a synthesist is one who combines the constituent elements of separate material into a unified entity then I, Synthesist has the perfect moniker. New Yorker Chris Iannuzi creates distinctive, thoughtful, geek dance pop that admittedly seeks influences from an eclectic range of electronic and experimental musicians. Overarching touch points for reference to these ears include most noticeably Thomas Dolby and Thomas Truax, but Iannuzi genuinely has his own voice – both figuratively and literally. The fact that this revels in its kookiness is what makes it so endearing. 

His style of vocal delivery won't be to everyone's tastes but if you're new to him, give him the benefit of the doubt and stick with it. If you do, you will hear one of those very rare things these days – a genuinely distinctive point of view. Dating from 2004, this remains I, Synthesist's most recent release at the time of writing. Although he has appeared on a couple of compilations since, including the Splicewerk – Eclectic Electronics From The NYC Underground compilation last year. What is generally achieved in the compositions is sometimes undermined by poor choices in samples. The excessively familiar percussion, for example, undermine the unique qualities of some of the writing. An external producer would probably insist Ianuzzi dug deeper and discovered and invested in a more original sample library. 

But the occasional technical shortcomings cannot deny the berserk inventiveness of this eclectic project. Take Anthems; although it begins by echoing the personality of Gary Numan's Child With The Ghost, one wonders if Martin Gore heard this in the past, forgot about it and subconsciously incorporated a piano piece from it into Heaven on the current Depeche Mode Delta Machine album. It's note for note the same, resulting in a surreal Japan-meets-Numan-meets-Depeche Mode experience. You don't hear and feel that very often... but I wish I could! Art of Survival very much continues in this vein, resulting in a curiously weird and yet somehow charmingly affecting sound universe. 7/10

Rob Dyer (July 2013)

[Avalanche sleeve]"Avalanche" (Album, 2004)

Endless Records

I, Synthesist is the moniker one Chris Ianuzzi has chosen as the front for his exploratory forays into the furthest reaches of electronic music. Ianuzzi's interest in the field was allegedly spawned after hearing the sound of a Moog synthesiser at a music store triggered an earlier childhood hallucinogenic memory first experienced during a dental procedure. A background in formal music training and an intellectual approach to composition led to Ianuzzi performing for the American Society of University Composers, serving as a creative associate to Suzanne Ciani's Electronic Music Factory, working with Vangelis and ex-Tangerine Dream member Peter Baumann, as well as work on chart-topping hits like AEIOU by Freeze. A number of years spent writing, recording and touring led to Ianuzzi scoring the orchestral music for the HBO Earth to Moon series. Since then he has focused his energies on merging music and performance utilising integrated visuals.

This eccentric debut album from 2004 is the audio summation of all of Ianuzzi's past experiences and interests. Avalanche is a rich tapestry of intelligent, if somewhat wonky, electronic pop songs created from a combination of classic analog synthesisers and cutting edge digital technology, ranging from the qurikpop, almost Eurovision entry of Captain, My Captain, through to reflective mellow ballad-like Glides On. The bonkers quality of Ianuzzi's talent is captured well on Mad Connection - a multifaceted, fascinatingly compelling ramble about "robo-sapiens", against a backdrop of staccato electro beats and pulsating synths. Whilst Images begins modestly enough before bursting into a glorious chorus and winds up delivering one of the most thoughtful entries. Whether applying bossanova beats, classical string arrangements, studio boffin technical trickery, tinkling piano keys or hard analog bass clicks, Ianuzzi repeatedly surprises with a varied collection of impressive creativity. It would have been nice if this were either an Enhanced CD or DVD release as having listened to the audio only, I'm now very curious to see the visual side of I, Synthesist. 8/10

Rob Dyer (March 2010)

See also:

Leeloo Kobayashi
Paolo Di Cioccio
Thomas Dolby
Thomas Truax