The Gift Of Affliction
Athens’ Zinovia Arvanitidi has apparently been working in electronic composition for a decade and a half, and her debut solo LP certainly reflects that resume. However, while accomplished in terms of arrangement and production, it’s the breadth of genres and mediums in which Arvantidi has worked which makes The Gift Of Affliction a welcome addition to the Tympanik fold and the general nexus of IDM and acoustic composition. Though rife with the sort of icy sweeps and slow, loping beats which remind me of Zero Degree or possibly even S U R V I V E, The Gift Of Affliction quickly reveals itself to be an ambient IDM record not of the deep space, way-trippy variety, but of a far more urbane ilk, connoting timeless continental cafes as well as 90s chill-out rooms.
The record which kept being called to mind as I listened to The Gift Of Affliction was r.roo’s mgnovenie. Like that album, unexpected instrumentation choices are added to the basic IDM clicks n’ pads template: in this case, contemplative piano chords often struck with processional regularity, offset by melodica (or possibly synthesized accordion, my ears aren’t sharp enough to tell). Similarly, it uses variations on that template to create an aesthetic and mood distinct from the commonly abstract feel of modern IDM and technoid, but while mgnovenie‘s impressionist sojourn was one of gaunt, pained introspection, Zinovia conveys a sense of hazy nostalgia, of searches for lost times painful or cheering, both amplified by time’s passing.
While I’m not detecting much in the way of the baroque fugues and counterpoint work mentioned in Arvanitidi’s CV, “The Gift Of Affliction” is clearly the work of someone with proper compositional chops. While the specific moods and instrumentations don’t vary too much over the LP’s forty eight minutes, each element is pressed into different roles at different points, and some canny layering creates organic builds, catharsis, and denouement. On “Entangled” the charming cafe idylls of a daydreamer are slowly built into a fully synesthetic reverie, dusty pops and squared beeps being swept up by lush piano and glockenspiel. “Emerge To Breathe” calms things down with a no-nonsense beat and light programming, but tosses some noir-shriek strings into the mix as well. “Attached Wide Open” allows Arvanitidi’s piano work to take center-stage almost unadorned, with a mournful but light refrain slowly changing each time as it turns over, a leaf or bird in autumn air.
The great tragedy of evocative composers in the age of film is that we often describe their work as “soundtrack-like”, or perfectly suited to various genre flicks, as though they somehow need a visual component to justify themselves (though admittedly Zinovia, along with In The Nursery and plenty of others, has done soundtrack work). What we really mean when we say this is that their work is not only transportive, but stimulating: connections are made in the listener’s head not just with other music, but with a whole host of other memories, experiences, and expectations. While never excessively dramatic, The Gift Of Affliction offers a host of launching pads for such associations.