Synthesizer trailblazer Suzanne Ciani and L.A.-based composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith are the newest coupling on FRKWYS, the release series from experimental label RVNG Intl. that pairs musical innovators separated by generations. Their collaboration, Sunergy, is a free-flowing album heavily inspired by California’s Northwest coast, where they both reside. You feel the intensity of the Pacific ocean through the sweeping synth bass and the ripples in the tide through modulating and splashy high-tones.
In advance of the album, RVNG Intl. has released a documentary on its creation, directed by Sean Hellfritsch — whose work you may know from Only One, the video game where players fly Kanye West’s mother through the gates of heaven. For his film about the making of Sunergy, Hellfritsch juxtaposes panoramas of cliff sides, alcoves, and waterways that embody both the album's inspiration and the music's majesty and wrath. He also captures something you wouldn’t expect to see in a genre with a self-serious reputation: Smith and Ciani laughing as they create.
Hellfritsch told The FADER a little about making the documentary over email:
“I didn’t hold any expectations over the film, though I was certain it wouldn’t be a classic documentary — i.e. no interviews intercut with behind the scenes footage. As Kaitlyn and Suzanne’s recordings came to life, I felt more and more that what I was making should simply serve as a visual layer to the sounds — another channel for listeners to experience.
“The music of Sunergy is an ode to the sun and the sea, so I thought it natural to look to those elements for my inspiration as well. I took a camera to the intertidal zone of Duxbury Reef and was very fortunate to find it in such a dynamic state. As I was shooting I could see the sounds of Kaitlyn and Suzanne’s synths dancing in the water and light. I thought to myself, Aha! This is it!”