Delicate, romantic, contemplative, introspective; all of these terms describe Christina Vantzou‘s recent album No1. A pristine collection of sound recordings, this album has not surprisingly found itself right at home amongst the best of Kranky’s alumni. No1 contains passages with highly emotional points sculpted from the subtle crescendos and decrescendos of a soft-bed of strings. The opening track, Homemade Mountains, seems to recollect some of today’s modern-classical music, encapsulating it into a piece that’s easier to swallow than some of Vantzou’s contemporaries. The album carries a certain warmth and grace from one piece to the next. Throughout the listening experience, various points are reminicent of the scapes explored by composers like Hugh McAmis (see Dreams, for organ), Iannis Xenakis (see Échange), or even Peter Winkler (see Fantasy for cello septet, “Surge”). For those less familiar with the aforementioned composers, one could also draw comparisons from the more recent recordings of M. Geddes Gengras (see Rebirth Los Angeles cassette on Full of Nothing) or the likes of artists like Aaron Martin, Black Swan and Celer (see their 2011 releases on Experimedia).
Overall, listening to No1 is an extraordinarily relaxing experience which seems to seduce the listener into a state of self-reflection. There’s also a strong sense of breath within each piece, allowing space for the listener to inhale and exhale in time with the music. Pieces like And Instantly Take Effect, are a perfect example of this. No1 is an album that continues to ring in your ears long after the initial listen, following you throughout the day like a half-shadow you’ve been missing. As an extra bonus, there is a certain touch of feminine sensitivity to the Vantzou’s work which gives it greater depth than other works from this genre. Yet, unlike many albums of this caliber, Vantzou’s pieces steer clear of that pretentious heir that is so often a turn-off to many listeners when it comes to modern/contemporary classical works such as this. It is as if the composer herself hap-hazardly stumbled upon her own compositions by accident after waking from a night of sleep-walking outdoors. This is not to say that these compositions were unintentional by any means, but rather that Vantzou’s knack for composing is something as natural for her as breathing in and out, or falling asleep. No1 is a select collection of both sound and emotion; highly recommended.