Christina Vantzou – No.4

Posted: 31 March 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Kranky – 6th April 2018

It was Alexander Trocchi, often referred to as the ‘Scottish Beat’ with whom the phrase ‘cosmonaut of inner space’ who seemingly has the strongest connection, largely on account of the fact that this was how he often referred to himself. However, it was in fact coined by William Burroughs, who said, “in my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed”.

This is pertinent, as the press release which accompanies the functionally-titled No. 4 – Belgium-based composer Christina Vantzou’s fourth full-length for Kranky – explains how her latest work ‘ventures further into the uniquely elusive and evocative mode of ambient classical minimalism which has become her signature: a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance. In regards to the new album she speaks of focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space.”’

More often than not, I will dismiss the contents of any accompanying verbiage in order to engage with the music unswayed by sales pitch or theoretical position. However, there was something about the context of this album which resonated, and – not wholly intentionally, I should stress – informed my listening and analysis. One may assume that ambient music is ambient music. But no: there are those vast, swirling, cinematic ambient works which explore immense spatiality; there are those works which gather and collage sounds specific to a given time or place, or both, and which are concerned in some way with location, be it geographical or temporal; and then there are those inward-looking explorations which filer through the libraries of the mind and memory. This very much sits in the latter category, with Vantzou’s sparse, minimal compositions possessing deeply haunting qualities, with the notes echoing into the deeper recesses of recollection.

The titles ascribed to the eleven compositions which comprise No.4 are all vague yet strangely evocative. ‘Doorway’; ‘Staircases’; ‘Some Limited and Waning Memory’… so non-specific, and precisely for this reason, so resonant. Within the personal lies the universal and between the spaces between the softly echoed piano notes, the subtle, drifting strings, the soft washes of sound that drift like vapour and gradually dissipate into the air.

Tranquillity descends. Under Vantzou’s aural guidance, I find myself reflecting on my own inner space and conjure images and recollections of experiences linked – however tangentially – to those spaces named in the titles. A bulbous bass pulsates on ‘Garden of Forking |Paths’ and I’m transported back to my father’s long, sprawling garden – and because the bass sound is reminiscent of The Cure circa Faith – specifically Carnage Visors – I’m back to when I discovered this music, age fourteen or fifteen. I visualise dappled orchard sunlight and smell grass clipping. This will mean nothing to you, but by allowing myself to drift inside, I’m feeling that interiority that Vantzou’s work intimates.

In times past, I may have felt embarrassment as taking such a tangential approach to a review. But music – and the response it elicits – is not scientific. To analyse this objectively would be futile, and worse still to strip the soul from its very heart. No.4 isn’t an album to listen to, so much as to feel.

AA

Christina Vantzou – No.4

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