This latest LP from Christina Vantzou is a bit of a love-in. Getting together with Angel Deradoorian, Forma's John Also Bennett, Clarice Jensen and a fair few others, the Belgian composer allowed her collaborators to add or delete parts at will. Surprisingly, the record doesn’t feel cluttered, coming across more as the work of a hive-mind operating under Vantzou’s guiding hand. Tracks like ‘Some Limited And Waning Memory’, for instance, are full of the ambient minimalism and open spaces that characterised her three previous albums.
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Thank you, hell. Having booted us out of the soul-sucking eternity that was ‘No. 3’, Christina Vantzou returns with another startling record in her ambient classical series, offering a more focused meditation performed by herself and collaborators Angel Deradoorian, Steve Hauschildt and John Also Bennett. After the marvellous meandering terrain of ‘No. 3’, this record compacts length but opens up the sonic palette, casting wide, open spaces within the pieces that suggest Vantzou’s past life as a member of the Dead Texan.
The darkness isn’t entirely gone; it lurks in corners of songs like “Doorway”, where the immense precision of Vantzou’s acoustic space echoes the brilliance of Tor Lundvall. Piano notes drop like icicles; the silence is a threat. In other places, though, there’s a warmth to her work, a returning shimmer: “At Dawn” is some of the loveliest music we’ve heard from her in a minute, the lovely chords recalling the processed instrumentation of affiliated bands like Stars of the Lid. “No. 4 String Quartet” is a beautiful arrangement that remains almost neutral in presentation, its drone suggesting directions but never fully committing to them.
In moments, Vantzou’s composition takes its most surreal, beguiling turns: “Lava” dips downwards into an industrial ocean of sound, its more nauseating moments offset by water-treading ambient texture. Utilising a pulsating rhythm and a voice that sounds like an alarm crying, she offers “Garden of Forking Paths”, perhaps the most evocatively disturbing piece she’s written yet. It’s another record of terror and contemplation, and yet another reason to count Vantzou as one of the great modern composers.
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