Christina Vantzou No. 4

Christina Vantzou No. 4
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Robert Burns had something to say about the best-laid plans of mice and men, and their tendency to go awry. Well, sometimes, going awry is part of the plan, as was the case for Christina Vantzou as she plotted out her fourth album for Kranky, No. 4.
 
The Belgium-based ambient neo-classical composer-director went into her studio sessions with a whole bunch of ideas for her small army of enchanted well-wishers, which included the likes of Steve Hauschildt, John Also Bennett, Angel Deradoorian, Clarice Jensen, Beatrijs De Klerck, and members of Belgium's Echo Collective. She planned on making an album balanced between heavily composed pieces and her kind of post-improv collaborations, where session musicians were free to add to or subtract from their collective efforts. When it came time to mix the results, the album ended up being entirely spontaneous, and it's all the better for it.
 
Despite the organized chaos of its creation, No. 4 sounds quite deliberate. It's balanced in its own way, gently coaxing the listener in two directions at once, between the soothing adagio ambiance of its string drones and elongated synth and vocal glissandi that bring to mind the tape loop experiments of Brian Eno. Its hauntingly dissonant, minor-key harmonic qualities generate a heavy feel and depth of sound up there with the most interesting film scores of Jóhann Jóhannsson. It strikes the imagination with dazzlingly cinematic scenes, moody yet not depressing, bringing the room together as background music yet evocative enough to capture unblinking attention.
 
Speaking of attention, Vantzou deserves to be fully embraced by the film industry. According to 5050 by 2020, 98 percent of film composers are currently male, and No. 4 proves beyond measure that Christina Vantzou has as much talent and vision as most any of them. Hollywood, this is your wakeup call. Listen to her. (Kranky)