A Winged Victory For The Sullen
25:16 min • Erased Tapes • April 28, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
Ahead of their second album Atomos, A Winged Victory For The Sullen have released an EP including one song that will feature on the full-length record. Due on October 6, the album is a score to Wayne McGregor’s new long-form dance piece. The artistic director behind the Random Dance Company and resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet approached the collaborative duo (consisting of Stars Of The Lid founder Adam Wiltzie and composer Dustin O’Halloran) to compose music to his new work after being energized by their debut self-titled record. Repeatedly playing the album during dance rehearsals, McGregor observed a compelling reaction by the dancers to their neoclassical compositions. Taking him up on his offer, the pair recorded more than sixty minutes of music over a four-month period during the summer of 2013 in Brussels, Berlin and Reykjavik. They describe how making the album in this time period for this specific project was a liberating experience, allowing them to free up the way they create, given that their first record took two years to make.
Atomos VII is a song that will feature on the full-length album and offers a window of insight into its direction. A calm befalls as the song floats in soft whisps of noise before a string section’s intense strokes commence the song’s heightening emotion. It’s simplicity allows listeners to imagine and envision what the visuals and sentiments of the song are. The song that follows, ‘Minuet For A Cheap Piano Number One’, is a song written during the recording sessions of their first album. It is a gentle piano instrumental which underlines their tactile way of approaching music in that the instruments appears to speak with two distinct sequential narratives.
The EP closes with a re-interpretation by producer and composer, Ben Frost. O’Halloran explained that the song came about when they were re-amping their guitars in Greenhouse Studios, “Ben expressed interest and admiration in the sounds we had created. We were planning for the B-side to be a metamorphosis of part VII, and Ben seemed the obvious choice”. Frost reimagines the song, beginning with the noise of a person on a ventilator. It instantly draws a new dynamic; where the original may have felt like being suspended in space, this version centres on a very real, human state i.e. that of being between life and death. He takes the original and transforms it into something that is more agitated and confrontational, as the noise of the hospital machine mutters underneath. The strings of the original rest underneath the unsettling, razorsharp sounds of Frost’s vision. The ‘Greenhouse Re-interpretation’ is the dark to the original’s light.
On the three songs of Atomos VII, A Winged Victory For The Sullen embody a willingness to diversify their writing style in giving themselves the challenge of writing music for dance performance. Similar to their debut album, the duo have created songs unbound by time, genre or even identity. Their cinematic approach incorporates ambient, electronic and classical elements which is a blank canvas for listeners with limitless potentials for imagination. Going by this EP, Atomos will be a body of work with its roots in the pair’s love of sound, experimentation and experience.
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