Zinovia :: The Gift Of Affliction (Tympanik Audio)

The Gift Of Affliction exudes a kind of noirish, Mediterranean cool, Zinovia’s love of the piano working in perfect harmony with rich synth strings, smoky fx, jazz influences and the ingenious and pervasive use of melodica.

Tympanik Audio has always been great at providing variety and choice to the consumer thanks to its policy of releasing three or four albums either simultaneously or in a very tight window. The occasional consequence of this, however, is that one or more of those albums miss out on their well-deserved time in the spotlight. The critically acclaimed, runaway success that was Comaduster’s Hollow Worlds is one such example, casting particularly long shadows over several albums that followed. A quick glance at the blurb, artwork and samples of The Gift Of Affliction give the impression that this might be business as usual for Tympanik Audio, and while that’s never a bad thing, such an impression couldn’t be further from the truth.

Athens-born Zinovia Arvanitidi has a background in classical music and music theory with a particular love of the piano, which she learned from age eight. She later began experimenting with electronic music as well as creating pieces for theater, film and other media that incorporated influences from classical, jazz, ambient, electro and even dub music. In 2012 Zinovia collaborated with Hior Chronik on Vanishing Mirror under the name Pill-Oh, a light, airy and classically themed album released on the Kitchen. label that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Sonic Pieces. All of this makes the discovery of The Gift Of Affliction on Tympanik Audio even more of a delight.

Much like Dictaphone’s Poems From A Rooftop (released on the aforementioned Sonic Pieces imprint) The Gift Of Affliction exudes a kind of noirish, Mediterranean cool, Zinovia’s love of the piano working in perfect harmony with rich synth strings, smoky fx, jazz influences and the ingenious and pervasive use of melodica. With these she paints vivid watercolor settings of smoky jazz lounges, beatnik bars, outdoor cafes, restaurants or coffee houses, shifting from highly atmospheric, evocative works to more moody, reflective passages with ease.

The Gift Of Affliction is unusual in that it never really appears to announce itself, the supple bass, background him and brushwork percussion of “The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin” gently and effortlessly swimming into focus with a languid, easy gait that catches you slightly unawares. Like a rural coastal town waking up to a balmy summer’s day, the early morning chill of “Communicating Vessels,” with its bracing, airy palette and evocative melodica give way to the mid-siesta stillness of “Chimera”, all insect chatter along shady streets, bird song in lush, sun-drenched parks, glinting, golden FX reflected through decorative fountains, and mysterious siren song vocals.

The pulsating bass, fizzling feedback and plaintive melodica of “Entangled” would be potent enough were it not then joined by sumptuous strings, lounge-y piano and the delicate resonance of the kalimba, moving The Gift Of Affliction into a more contemplative, brooding direction that “Emerge To Breathe” builds on with tense melodies formed by the sensual intertwining of off-beat, motorik rhythms and simmering pads. A more classical passage follows in the piano-centric “Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open” which is followed by the only track that seems slightly out of place, “Sucking The Smoke From Our Lips” lacking the depth of field, subtlety and polish of the other tracks here.

The album closes on a spectacular high, however, starting with the appropriately titled “Beneath A Stellar Sky,” a gem and flashing diode-studded jewel in the crown that is interlaced with more melodica, piano and chattering percussion. When the pacily plucked, spun-gold strings and synth pads kick in and a descending melodic loop drifts above bass drones at its halfway point, well, the word “perfection” simply seems inadequate. It then closes in a traditional, low-key fashion on “A Time To Make Amends” with arpeggiating piano, radio interference and clattering field recordings.

So few electronic artists are able to evoke a true sense of place through a distinctive sound and atmosphere, to say nothing of then sticking with that sound across an entire album. Zinovia has confined herself to a carefully selected set of parameters on The Gift Of Affliction that simultaneously manifests itself in the overarching atmosphere, mood, sound palette and pacing of the entire piece. In unskilled hands this could result in an album that lacks variety, potentially rendering it repetitive or homogeneous, but this kind of evocative sonic imagery and atmospheric looming is clearly second nature to Zinovia as the formula is modified over and over again, simply refusing to get old.

Tympanik Audio really are killing it this year: Atiq & Enk, Comaduster, Undermathic, Digital Exorcist, and now Zinovia. Don’t sleep on this one, you need The Gift Of Affliction in your life as soon as humanly possible.

The Gift Of Afflication is available on Tympanik Audio.

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