“So, when you play this live, you just have to figure out a way to construct a huge bell jar to put over the entire orchestra except the cello player.” That is how a friend of Christina Vantzou’s described her aesthetic back to her, per Vantzou’s own recollection when I interviewed her a few years ago on the occasion of her third album, Nº3 (Kranky). It’s an apt comparison. There is a restraint, a sense of sounds emanating down a dark hall, music heard through thick fabric, to Vantzou’s recordings, and the approach holds strong on her new album, No. 4, released earlier this month.
This No. 4 track, “Staircases,” exemplifies Vantzou’s approach. Traditional classical elements, heavy on sedate strings and a minimal piano line that descends like the title subject, are heard in a quiet but intense echo, one in which space — whether real or virtual, physical or a matter of post-production — is as much an instrument as the instruments themselves.