Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran return with their second studio album inspired by contemporary dance and new instrumentation.
After releasing a first glimpse in the form of the ‘Atomos VII’ EP earlier this year, A Winged Victory For The Sullen finally reveal their second full-length album entitled ‘Atomos’, which besides familiar piano, string and drone sounds also sees the duo introduce flurries of electronics, harp and modular synthesisers.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
“As a wise man once said, one who procrastinates their own choosing will inevitably have their choice served to them by circumstance. We had virtually no time for second guessing ourselves. That being said, we tried to balance the discordance between being creative, and fulfilling our duties for a commissioned soundtrack with a very strict deadline, and all the while staying true to our collective melancholy.”
– Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie
“We never imagined 2013 would be such an explosively creative year. The first record took us two years from start to finish, but in the micro span of time over last summer we were able to change the formula for the way we write, record, liberating.” – Dustin O'Halloran
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A Winged Victory For The Sullen's euphoric debut was a beacon of hope. Pianist Dustin O'Hallaran, with his dramatic and forthright compositions, took Adam Witzie's calming ambient soundscapes as foundations, making them sound aspirational. Witzie's old band, Stars of the Lid, had always been a comfort, to be listened to when time was frozen and there was no stress or severity -- but hearing O'Hallaran's piano was like hearing time start up again, full of hope for a new day. Or, you know: it sounded very beautiful.
That might all be bullshit, but it gives you an idea of what A Winged Victory For The Sullen sound like: ambient music that gets loud and makes a scene, instead of staying in the same place forever, afraid of what might happen. 'Atomos' is much the same, in that sense -- O'Hallaran's impressionist piano-playing is no less melodramatic, and Witzie provides a gorgeous, vacuous landscape for the band's orchestra to fuck up. His drones are reminiscent of his work in Stars of the Lid, but they're made with the hope something new might come from old textures. In expanding his sound to O'Hallaran and a host of violinists and cellists, he allows for different emotions to be roused -- and unlike their debut, 'Atomos' is a disturbing work. It begins with a tense overture that exists to be escaped from, made of strings that sound like they're being skinned, a violent and frightening melody that reminds me of Tim Hecker's chilling "Chimeras", and a huge drone that traps it all in. The record's second suite, while relaxing into Witzie's ambient backdrop a little, retains this feeling of terrifying uncertainty, with strings that sound like they've been performed in the dark, a la Max Richter.
It's all in the framing: 'Atomos' could sound like a bright, hopeful record, on another day -- the stark cello motif on "V" has the potential to be one of the year's most uplifting moments, continuing like it's a matter of survival. But Witzie and O'Hallaran are on a pre-determined journey, their tortured beginnings colouring the rest of the record as a seriously dark piece of ambient. 'Atomos' still has that shimmering Winged Victory aesthetic resonating through it, but with its edges sharpened, the orchestral creating a rawer, more torrential sounds that keeps the suspense, even when its being released. O'Hallaran's chords sulk quietly and creepily through "VII", the composition lingering and ringing through the ears for minutes before the string swells burst -- rather than phase -- in. And then Witzie's synth drone comes in. And it rises. And rises. It's quite terrifying, really; if their debut record was an ambient record starting to breathe, then 'Atomos' is one that makes you breathless.
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