Christina Vantzou - No.1
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As the insistent movement into Autumn continues the cyclical progression of the seasons, as does the abundance of music - particularly in the modern classical, ambient and drone fields that seem to inherently align themselves with this time of year. Dropping temperatures, strengthening winds, and the ever darkening grey and denser mists on my walk to work accompany a tapestry of fallen leaf colours under foot. The first album on Kranky by Christina Vantzou 'No.1' falls into this category easily
Vantzou will be known to some for being within the Kranky and Sparklehorse fraternities, connected with Adam Wiltzie via their collaboration 'The Dead Texan' (also releasing on Kranky) and more recently through creating the cover art for Wiltzie's work with Dustin O'Halloran as 'A Winged Victory for the Sullen'. Three years in the making, No.1 has more akin with Stars of the Lid, or Brian McBrides' The Effective Disconnect than Winged Victory, if we were to make comparisons. The wider spread of instrumentation makes for a less intimate, more cinematic feel but no less emotionally intense. Fans of Kyle Bobby Dunn also will find much hear to fall in love with.
The first moments of opener 'Homemade Mountains' (which was available ahead of release) sets the album off in a beautifully considered stasis, 'Prelude for Juan' however steps out of this mould, boldly incorporating an uneasiness that disallows us from simply letting the music pass us by. Rendered with strings, lonely horns, clarinets and hollow grating synthesisers; cavernous noise evolves with a seismic churning, like slate grey seas, broken only by the white crests of the waves.
Super Interlude Pt1 provides an [almost] solo horn introduction to its second part, before the charmingly delicate 'Small Choir' creates its warming ambience - its nice to hear the bass end used so well to deliver a well rounded sound. 'And Instantly Take Effect' segues between notes, string noises adding atmosphere, a rush of wind. All becomes clear - Vantzou channels the gentleness and power of nature through these pieces. - the majesty of the sea, richness of autumn colours, and locates us within the real world. Before we know it Joggers is playing, ending the album.
Full of expansive string swells that will render the heart both still and moved. Moments of clarity emerge from mists of feelings of being lost. Vantzou knows how to create beautiful harmonies by dovetailing phrases into each other; be that singular notes/drones or slow melodies. The production on the instruments is left for the most part open, allowing the richness to build and embody the emotion. If ever there was an album to soundtrack Autumn, this is it.