You know that feeling, on a hot day, of someone running an ice cube down the back of your neck? Or perhaps, going deeper, the dream of plunging into a frozen lake?
That visceral, primeval emotion, that chill that prickles the hairs on your head – that might start to describe the eerily-lovely wonderlands of Christina Vantzou. Brussels-base artist Vantzou was the visual imagination behind The Dead Texan (with Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie), releasing an epic audiovisual masterpiece that paired cinematic ambience with video realizations.
Vantzou has continued as a composer, with two records on Kranky Records (easy to remember – titled No. 1 and No. 2) engineered by Wiltzie. In swells of impossibly-slow, post-minimal string, electronic, and vocal textures, she makes elegant scenes of sound. It’s not wallpaper to me, as those materials could easily become; there’s some emotional sensitivity that makes these frozen tone poems heart-wrenching.
But because Vantzou works so much with colors, with static images, the palette of these two records is also perfectly-suited to remixing – at least in the hands of experimental artists. And Vantzou proves she’s as sharp a curator as composer, she’s released remix albums of each that can stand alone as much as the original. No. 1, in 2012, featured the likes of ISAN, Robert Lippok, Ben Vida, and many others, plus a bonus Dead Texan cut. Tracing the same adventurous, experimental collaborations, No. 2 – released last month – turns to Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Ken Camden, John Also Bennett (aka Seabat), and Loscil (Vancouver’s Scott Morgan).
The Loscil track is beautiful enough to put a pit in your stomach. But it’s Vantzou’s video that crystallises this whole aesthetic path. It’s a simple conceit: a young woman half-dances in slow-motion, her hair flowing before the camera in a way you might dance to the track in your mind. But her ghostly figure and costume, all in rich colors against a dark background, recall a Caravaggio painting, transposed to more modern, non-descript settings. The effect is eerie, unsettling – as if she has been caught sleep walking.
Loscil’s understated production pulses gently as if it’s an extension of your own body.
The remixes are available on Bandcamp. And I hope against all odds that some model like this can work. I don’t necessarily want a limited-edition vinyl record of this music to show off to my friends – this is digitally-produced music, meant to be distributed in an appropriate digital format. I want to, in this instant, spend a few dollars and support something I really love, because I simply care more about some music than others.
But wait – there’s more perfection to accompany the EP – slow-motion liquids, figures, just as much classical-surrealist masterworks. I can’t think of another composer who is also as accomplished as a film director, working in cinema for the eyes and cinema for the ears with the same eloquence.
There’s even a video for the original ‘VHS’ well worth watching:
Don’t miss the first remix record, too:
– and, of course, the originals on Kranky.
And her Vimeo feed, for lovers of ambient music and image, is better than owning a TV:
Do send money via Bandcamp and let’s hope more is on its way.