By Amanda Nordqvist
Known both for her part in duo Pill-Oh, as well as her ambient-electronic album The Gift of Affliction, and having composed for both TV and film, Greek composer Zinovia Arvanitidi is well apt to venture into somewhat new territory with her first neo-classical album, Ivory. Released on Piano Day, March 29th, Ivory is as elegant as it is evocative, and a deep dive into the mind of the France-based composer. The album begins with the title track, honing the mature and elegant sound of Debussy – instantly, Arvanitidi’s experience in writing for film shines through, as the piece tells of stories and feelings and pictures I couldn’t have ever imagined myself. The much too short Essence follows, somehow so nostalgic and yet irrevocably in the present; Arvanitidi flirts with familiar melodies but makes them inevitably her own, breathing new life into them.
The height of cinematic sensation comes next, as the irresistible, attention-grabbing Inattendu takes my hand and pulls me along on a quick, seductive dance around the room – I feel as though I’m watching a story unfold on the screen and yet, all I am actually seeing are the seconds counting down until the track is inescapably over. Did they stop for just a moment? As the crescendo entails, are the seconds slowing down? But no, there they go, and the piece lays to rest as I lean back, exhausted, only to be swept up again by the gloriously up-tempo Fluttering, whose melody contrasts the intense accompaniment with its more laid-back aura, but is soon wrapped up in the flurry, as haunting vocals add a sense of downright divinity to the beautiful piece.
The album descends into a more personal, intimate space, as Invisible starts off, a slow track with a clear forward motion. Whispers like a soft brush against your hair, waves rolling slowly in and out, the odd crackle here and there – all led by the softly moaning strings, carrying the gentle piano. Parting Ways, adding to the sincere intimacy, is like watching your loved one get dressed in the morning, the slowly rising sun on their hair, and maybe you’re not sure if you’re still sleeping, and maybe you’re not sure if they’ll be back once they’ve gone. It’s an incredibly emotional piece, a grandeur to the expertly arranged strings – how they weave in and out of each other, calling out and answering, knowing full well that soon there will be no answer, but not willing to let go just yet.
Though I knew it was coming, I found myself haltering as the melodica took the lead halfway through Duende – Arvanitidi uses the instrument in a way I, frankly, didn’t think possible. In more ways than one it is a silly instrument, as was my previous prejudice, but in the hands of the Greek composer it suddenly shows such soul and emotion I am positively taken aback, and must humbly admit how wrong I was about this unusual instrument.
The album ends on three lovely pieces, the gentle Afterlight and the unpredictable Ebony in great contrast to each other, as the latter is so intriguingly indefinable and flexible, like a dancer moving every which way. Time proves one of the album’s strongest tracks, beginning so softly and almost hesitantly adding in an absolutely gorgeous melody, soon growing into a grander piece where, once again, the strings add depth to every emotion the piano conveys; they move together like sisters, knowing the other inside and out. Indeed, Arvanitidi has created an incredible album, moving from minimalistic to intricate and ornate in an organic and unpretentious way – a perfect addition, and homage, to Piano Day.