CD, Satellite Symphonics, 2007
After a somewhat auspicious debut with his previous album, “Avalanche,” this new offering by the N.Y.-based electropop act I, Synthesist comes across as something of a disappointment or, at least, unimpressive. While there are genuinely good tracks on “Art Of Survival,” quite a few of them sound either uninspired or plagued by an ineffective creative approach in a perhaps questionable attempt to make them (and the album) sound more club-friendly.
It would seem that Chris Ianuzzi sought to supplement his signature dry and minimalist sound with explicit club-friendly beats, an approach whose efficacy can be questioned, even more so in the context of a full-length album. The end result was, in my opinion, a series of tracks hardly indistinguishable from each other, where melodic nuances and composition quirks are drowned in more often than not unchanging beats. While isolated, any of these tracks may be somewhat ear-grabbing (thanks to Ianuzzi’s characteristic vocals and the little melodic touches), but when listened to in sequence most of the appeal and subtleties they may have is lost, especially if one’s stereo (or listening device in these days of iPods and such) has a tendency to accentuate the bass and club kicks (e.g., my car stereo).
Not all is doom and gloom however, as a few gems manage to shine through. Perhaps these few tracks are not enough to save the album as a whole, but they hint at what Ianuzzi can pull out of his hat on a good day. Complex despite its apparent simplicity, “Time Machine” is in my opinion the most memorable track of the album, and is followed by a couple laidback and pleasant songs: the soft ballad that is “Anthems” and the sci-fi “Moon Song.” Despite the nearly unchanging beat, there is more variation and complexity in “Paradise” than in the earlier tracks of the album, in a sort of balance which, if it had been achieved in other tracks, might have benefited the album as a whole.
While “Art Of Survival” did not live up to my expectations, Ianuzzi retains his capability to deliver appealing songs in his unique style. However, I can’t shake the feeling that this album would have worked out much better if it had been released as an EP, concentrating on strong points rather than on material which, while effective in a live setting, lacks appeal as recorded material.
— Miguel de Sousa