There was the lovely debut solo album, No.1 – now here’s the follow-up, No.2, before either of those records there was time spent working with Sparklehorse, with The Dead Texan and around those records there’s been installations and artworks, there’s been a lot of music and yet Vantzou’s real composing/arranging strength is the way she distils it all and refines it, No. 2 is just 35 minutes long but it bursts with ideas, straddling a line between modern dark ambient music and “authentic-sounding” classical. There’s Vancouver Island Quartet for example, sounding like something Lustmord might create with stretched voices and gorgeous, lilting strings; always just the hint of foreboding – in lighter moments this sounds like the score to True Grit or some of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack work (Going Backwards To Recover That Which Was Left Behind). And both Brain Fog and Sister remind me of Mark Knopfler’s lovely score for Last Exit To Brooklyn.
Through all these touchstones and reference points the music on No. 2 sounds like nothing else I’ve heard, I cling to those comparisons as a way of trying to explain the beauty of this record; that’s the sometimes-a-burden aspect of reviewing – finding words to describe music.
There are moments here where I think of how other soundtracks might have sounded – how Vantzou could have done (further) wonders for Blade Runner (Vhs) or Baraka (Little Darlin Seize The Sun). It’s quite something to imagine this as a new soundtrack for visual pieces that already work, in part, due to iconic soundscapes married up with the vision.
Strings dominate here, but when they drop away to a quiet, and then disquieting piece of piano (Vostok) with horns the sirens of warning it’s a whole other feel within the tranquillity. Somehow Vantzou’s work has you both on the edge of your seat and in a state of bliss; a remarkable feeling to be both at ease and keenly aware.
I love this album.