In 2004, The Dead Texan, a duo comprised of Christina Vantzou and Adam Wiltzie, released its first (and so far only) album, a self-titled work paired with a selection of short films. The Dead Texan achieved a near-perfect balance of beatific drone and pop restraint, eminently satisfying on a number of levels. While Wiltzie’s profile has remained high since then via albums from both Stars of the Lid and new project A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Vantzou has shirked the spotlight. Three years in the making, No.1 makes for a fine solo debut. A 46-minute work in 10 parts, stately with subtle ripples, this is a solid declaration of Vantzou’s abilities as a musician and composer.
Two thousand and eleven also saw Vantzou contribute to Ghostly International’s excellent SMM: Context compilation, which featured a number of likeminded musicians and composers working at various places around the drone/ambient field. Like her contribution, “Generations of My Fathers,” No. 1’s 10 pieces seem almost static at first, structured around lengthy sustained passages that seek to envelop their audience. “Homemade Mountains” opens the album with drifting chords that slowly reveal a drifting melody, then segue into the harsher sounds that emerge over the course of “Prelude for Juan.” Or consider the quiet brass fanfare that emerges two-thirds of the way through “Adversary,” keeping its implicit majesty close at hand and fending off a passage that seems determined to pull the piece into atonal territory. Throughout the album, this tension between the expected and the harsh never entirely ebbs away, providing an uneasy yet vital energy.
No. 1 isn’t an easy work to describe. Much of its music evokes a sort of stasis -- but, like her previous work in The Dead Texan, Vantzou allows fragments of pop sensibility into the mix. More impressively, she is able to evoke certain qualities of shape and form through her music without resorting to overly familiar devices or overused citations of sentimentality. No. 1 calls to mind massive vast spaces and forms that have loomed for millennia. It’s a tautly constructed, tightly played work, and a fine re-introduction to a talented composer.