Album Review: A Winged Victory for the Sullen by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Exceptionally Good, Based on 5 Critics
Tiny Mix Tapes - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
A Winged Victory for the Sullen was born from a chance encounter between Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid, etc.) and Dustin O’Halloran (Dévics). They were introduced, in 2007, by their mutual friend, Francesco Donadello, during what would become Sparklehorse’s final European tour. Backstage, they developed an instant rapport and subsequently, across the Continent (Belgium, Germany, Italy), formed a collaborative friendship.
I suspect we all have those fragmented memories of early school experiences. Those amnesic shards of icy-grassed playing fields, of teeming lunch halls and numbing assemblies. Oddly enough, A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s evocative debut recast a specific strand of these nebulous recollections in the front of my mind. Remind yourself, if you can, of the old, decaying astronomgy VHS screened in lifeless physics classrooms, the sort of tape that would jar every few minutes with static bursts, the sort narrated by an innately calming character of the Attenborough construct, the sort presented under an uninspiring and hackneyed title (The Galaxy and Beyond; The Fabric of our Universe).
Starting with the steady, contemplative piano and slight feedback on the opening "We Played Some Open Chords," A Winged Victory for the Sullen can't be called a barrel of laughs per se, but their song titles -- not to mention their band name -- suggest a knowing playfulness with the conventions of moodily beautiful 21st century drone/ambient. Given that the core members are composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid veteran Adam Wiltzie, it's little surprise that both those conventions, and how to work well beyond them, are within their grasp on this debut release. Much like some Stars of the Lid releases, the album and song names may verge on the wry, but without that context, something like the slow strings and feeling of suffused sorrow on the first part of "Requiem for the Static King," or the involving textures of "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" simply are what they are, and quite beautifully so at that.
When I heard Adam Wiltzie, known for his ambient work with Stars of the Lid, and Dustin O'Halloran, a Berlin-based pianist/composer and member of the dream pop band Devics, were teaming up for a new project, I knew what to expect. Which isn't a bad thing. Wiltzie makes sonorous and droning music with static harmonies in Stars of the Lid (and has played in Windsor for the Derby); O'Halloran writes melancholy piano music built around the repetition of chords and phrases.
This meditative and cinematic set is a victory for subtlety and sensitivity. David Sheppard 2011 The grandiloquently named project of a pair of blue riband mood-casters, A Winged Victory for the Sullen combines the talents of Italophile Californian pianist Dustin O’Halloran and Stars of the Lid’s ambient drone-meister Adam Wiltzie, another American who these days calls Europe (Belgium, in his case) home. True to their chosen moniker, the music that this cosmopolitan duo fashion regularly takes wing and it’s certainly a victory for subtlety, sensitivity and judiciousness over broad, flashy musical brushstrokes.