Christina Vantzou’s sound has been further refined on her fourth album for Kranky – one listen to the opening piece, ‘Glissando for Bodies and Machines in Space’, is enough to leave the listener’s jaw hanging as the piece sets the tone for the rest of the album, a slow pirouette into limitless space, completely lost in the dark pull of an orbit where a lone voice slides and swirls into oblivion. Suspended, spacious and void-like, the composition unravels a darker side, and No. 4 excels at beckoning these smoky shadows into its midst. Something of a monolithic shape, something unseen, is gathering in the gloom.
Her ambient and classical music has always favoured the minimal, and No. 4 provides a deeper experience because of it. Once upon a time, her music had more rigidity in its orchestral skeleton, structured while keeping its smooth ambient flow and caress, with lambent harmonies and cinematic drones mirroring her work with Adam Wiltzie as The Dead Texan. Nowadays, her music embraces the experimental and the ephemeral, bridging the gap between the dislocated two and turning what was once disjointed into a cohesive outlet. For Vantzou, No. 4 is an evolution, a new side, a new face standing in the same doorway. At the same time, this face looks familiar, like an old friend seen a decade later. Their phrasing and their fingerprints are the same, and in that respect Vantzou’s music is still recognizable, but it’s morphing, evolving.
Vantzou’s ambient drones are still in place, but electronics slither and scuttle around them. ‘At Dawn’ glows with a series of swelling strings, and the deep, processed drones echo forever, surrounding everything with elegant displays. Her music lies on the periphery, like the late-rising dawn or the sunset in the street. No. 4 also features a number of musical collaborations, including Steve Hauschildt, John Also Bennett (Forma), Angel Deradoorian, Clarice Jensen, Beatrijs De Klerck and members of Belgium’s Echo Collective. But Vantzou aimed to ‘blur lines of hierarchy’, so members of the ensemble were allowed to add or delete parts of their own free will, and this has only strengthened the album. Citing sleep and the loosening of time in her private and professional life, Vantzou’s music appears in the form of a dream-like fugue, an endless glint of light rising up from a well of darkness and introspection.