Christina Vantzou’s No. 3 is an exceptional album, but we’ve come to expect nothing less. No. 3 is a hypnotic ambient beauty with a modern classical spirit, interspersed with experimental tones and washed in a soft electronic downpour. The overall process took two years, and continues on from last year’s No.2. On Christina’s appropriately-named No. 3, her experimentation with and her rearrangement of a cluster of classical instruments ascends the music to new heights. Subtle electronics map out the high peaks and low points, but they all eventually circle and swirl around a family of drones. Fluid synths dapple the air, recalling her ambient music as one half of The Dead Texan. You can get lost in the music.
‘Valley Drone’ comes from a low, cloudy drone that breaks through the nebulous storm. An invisible choir chants a higher drone, but it’s still chained to the dark. These shimmering vocals can’t quite penetrate the thicker trunk of the cello and her robust voice. The pieces unravel slowly and methodically, and Christina’s attention to detail as a composer and as an arranger shines through. Stretched strings morph into long, cavernous drones. Infant arpeggios climb and fall. They’re distinctly electronic, and they pave the way for an approaching laser of synth. It’s suddenly pushed to the forefront, blooming like a strange kind of flower. ‘Pillar 3’ follows more of a structure – a dark one – but the yesterday synths have now grown up. Thick branches hang over the remnants of a lighter piano, which has been suffocated by the vines and can now only muster up enough energy to play sparsely. Intersecting the music are stronger ‘pillars’ that support and stand the drones up on sturdy foundations. They act as stone to the music’s soft sheets, letting the drones billow outwards and upwards. In an unexpected turn, fog-drenched vocals drip and create puddles of reverb on ‘Cynthia’. Vocal manipulations put her experimental side in the limelight. Stormy skies and low-hanging clouds anchor themselves to the music’s pale light. Murky and cool, a lighter melody comes to clear the air.
‘Stereoscope’ is one hundred percent ambient. It features Canada’s Loscil, so the quietly stirring tones shouldn’t come as a surprise. As the record progresses, the lagging pace slows even further. Liquidised synths flow around, lost in the ether. Both ‘Moon Drone’ and ‘Shadow Sun’ are brutal in their immense, earth-shifting movements. A seismic eclipse darkens the surface of the music. Low tones flirt with shades of subtle, shadowy light. No. 3 is Christina Vantzou’s opus. It may even be her defining record. It’s her best work to date, and that’s saying something.