Seven Waves is Suzanne Ciani's first recording, debuting in 1982 and becoming popular in Japan first, then the US and the rest of the world. The recording of this album took two years, starting in 1979. The instrumentation reads like a who's who of vintage synthesizers (except of course the Steinway Piano).
Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and Sequencers
Roland MC-8 and MC-4 (early hardware sequencers)
Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer
Buchla Series 200
Lyricon (played by Rob Zantay)
ARP String Ensemble
Bode Vocoder, Eventide Signal Processor, Eventide Harmonizer, Marshall Time Modulator, Ursa Major Space Station, EMT 250, Necam Automated Console
The CD is divided into seven pieces (or "waves")
- The First Wave: Birth of Venus
- The Second Wave: Sirens
- The Third Wave: Love in the Waves
- The Fourth Wave: Wind in the Sea
- The Fifth Wave: Water Lullaby
- The Sixth Wave: Deep in the Sea
- The Seventh Wave: Sailing Away
The CD starts out with an electric sound of waves on a shore. This sound is pervasive throughout the CD, sometimes featuring prominently, sometimes far in the background, but always there. The waves not only continue throughout the CD but they also set the tone of much of the music: arpeggios, chords, and a tapestry of timbre, weaving themselves in and out, always moving.
The first track's title, The Birth of Venus, is appropriate as the melody emerges from the quiet waves and light arpeggios. The Lyricon is beautifully featured on this track (as well as tracks 3 and 6), played by Rob Zantay. This piece ends with the melody fading back into the crashing surf where it was born.
Sirens features two sections. The first with a prominent ostinato, and the second with a light sine-wavey melody. The nice thing about Ciani's treatment of synth is that she is not content to just have the synths cycle through a bunch of notes. She creates expressiveness, even during the repetitive ostinato section, playing with the filter, making the notes, like electronic waves, undulate, moving in and out timbres.
Love in the Waves starts out with a strong melody over arpeggios. The arpeggios start out simple but become complex and multi-layered. Soon the arpeggios take over the piece with an almost arpeggio improvisational section building once again to the melody.
Wind in the Sea features the piano (double by synthesizers) against a short six note sequence. Chords and melodies weave in and out of this sequence, playing with it and against it. Eventually the piano melody morphs into just synths. There is a nice blend here of acoustic and electric.
The next three tracks are anchored by a "normal" drum beat (one with the kick on 1 & 3 and the snare on 2 & 4), previously absent from the CD. When the TR-808 has been used before, it has been used sparingly, and for emphasis.
Water Lullaby's title suggests water but I'm caught dreaming of flying when I listen to it. Even the waves in the background sound more like air than water to me, almost breathing. A very uplifting song.
Deep in the Sea is interesting. The melody has a quirkiness to it that I like. And the song is textured with bubbly "popcorny" sounds and a full, deep, serious bass.
Sailing Away ends the CD with pop feel. The structure is very ballad-like. And of all the pieces, this one speaks to the sound of the late 70's and early 80's. I really like the percussive simmon-drum-like sounds towards the end.
Released in 1986, The Velocity of Love picks up where Seven Waves left off. Armed with a few new instruments, among them a DX-7, Voyetra Eight, Prophet-5, and Linn drum machines,
Ciani takes a romantic turn, recommending to her listeners "a fire, candlelight, and two sets of headphones!" She has some help on three of the 5 songs from fellow synthesist and New Age artist, Vangelis (remember "Chariots of Fire") who plays solos for her on the Yamaha CS-80. The tracks are:
- The Eighth Wave
- Lay Down Beside Me
- The Velocity of Love
- History of My Heart
The Eighth Wave
Suzanne Ciani: Prophet-5, Prophet Sequencer, Prophet T-8, Voyetra Eight, Yamaha DX-7 (processors: Bode Vocoder, Eventide SP2016, Lexicon 224X)
Rob Zantay: Lyricon, Korg MS-20, Oberheim Xpander
The Eighth Wave starts out with a 4 note descending phrase which sets the mood for the entire CD, the same phrase showing up later on the tracks, Lay Down Beside Me and Malibuzios. And one can almost hear it eluded to in the main accompaniment of the title track. The DX-7, (the keyboard which defined the 80's) can be heard prominently on this cut and blend well with their analog cousins.
Lay Down Beside Me
Suzanne Ciani: Prophet-5, Prophet T-8, Synclavier II, Voyetra Eight, Yamaha DX-7 (processors: Bode Vocoder, Eventide SP2016, Lexicon 224X)
Chris Ianuzzi: Voyetra Eight, Yamaha DX-7
Vangelis: CS-80 Solo
The main theme of this track is an electric piano theme supported by a host of synth pads and effects. Then there is a second monophonic synthesizer theme. Rob Zantay and his Lyricon, who appeared on the Seven Waves recordings is brought back and featured on this recording. This track also features a haunting pitch-bend background theme and performed by Vangelis, who also improvises on this theme throughout the piece.
The Velocity of Love
Suzanne Ciani: Roland MKS-30, MKS-80, MSQ-700 sequencer, SBX-80, TR-707, MKB-1000, Steinway Piano (Model D) (processors: Bode Vocoder, Eventide SP2016, Lexicon 224X)
The Velocity of Love, which has throughout the years become Ciani's signature song, is a beautiful example of blending the accoustic piano with the textures of the synthesizer. It starts out with a single chord which grows into a large multi-padded texture which then gives away (almost completely) to the Solo Piano for which this song is known. The main piano theme is supported by a rich texture of synthesizer pads, which become more prominent until they take over the piece, leaving only the melody to be played by the piano. Then the piano supports the synthesizer which takes its turn playing the melody. The piece ends by the piano restating the theme building to a climax and then fading away over the same rich synthesizer textures it came in on.
Suzanne Ciani: Linndrum, Prophet-5, Prophet T-8, Rolland MKS-30, MKS-80, MSQ-700, SBX-80, TR-707, MKB-1000, Synclavier II, Voyetra Eight, Yamaha DX-7, (processors: Bode Vocoder, Eventide SP2016, Lexicon 224X)
Elliott Randall: Roland GR-700 Guitar Synthesizer
Vangelis: CS-80 Solo
Malibuzios opens with a host of sound-effects giving way to a melody which incorporates a, now recognizable, 4 note decending theme which is heard elsewhere on the CD. The sound effects later come back during the solo sections to help build the piece back to the main theme. The piece is held together by a 3/3/2 rhythm which allows for much rhythmic play between the instrument. This song features Elliott Randall on the GR-700 Guitar Synthesizer and Vangelis playing a solo on the CS-80.
History of My Heart
Suzanne Ciani: Buchla Series 200, LinnDrum, Linn 9000, Prophet-5, Prophet T-8, Roland MKS-30, MKS-80, MSQ-700, SBX-80, TR-707, MKB-1000, Synclavier II, Voyetra Eight, Yamaha DX-7 (processors: Bode Vocoder, Eventide SP2016, Lexicon 224X)
Chris Iannuzi: Voyetra Eight
Vangelis: CS-80 solo
The CD ends with a serious, but uplifting and hopeful piece called History of My Heart, which is introduced with drum rolls and given percussive emphasis throughout the piece. The Buchla, otherwise absent from the CD, is featured on this recording. Vangelis plays a solo on the CS-80, as the piece slowly drifts away in waves, giving the CD an appropriate and almost zen-like ending.