A Winged Victory For The Sullen:
A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Given the involvement of Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie and composer-pianist extraordinaire Dustin O'Halloran, A Winged Victory For The Sullen offers a collaboration that will no doubt have immediate and automatic appeal for electronic-classical music devotees (the two met backstage through a mutual friend in May 2007 in Bologna, Italy when Wiltzie was on tour and playing with Sparklehorse). Wiltzie has been particularly busy of late, it seems, as With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields, the latest album by Sleepingdog, his collaborative venture with Chantal Acda, appeared mere months ago.
On the new project, track titles alone—“Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears” one such example—suggest the presence of a Stars of the Lid sensibility, even if one such as “We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced, For the Earth Had Circled the Sun Yet Another Year” is as much the kind of title Godspeed You! Black Emperor was renowned for adopting. And not to take anything away from O'Halloran's contributions to the recording, but certain settings, such as “Requiem For the Static King Part One” where the piano is absent, could just as comfortably appear on a Stars of the Lid recording.
The opening piece, “We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced, For the Earth Had Circled the Sun Yet Another Year,” quickly brings into focus the character of the Wiltzie-O'Halloran collaboration, with a brief introductory passage of strings giving way to an elegiac piano episode that's pure O'Halloran. The duo's luscious chamber classical sound, already aromatic in its blend of grand pianos, string quartet, French horn, bassoon, and ambient guitar atmsopheres, is deepened by the contributions of guest musicians cellist Hildur Gudnadottir and violinist Peter Broderick. The album's melancholic tone is brought forth explicitly in the sinuous lines of a string quartet during “Requiem for the Static King Part One,” while the composition's time-suspending second part adjusts the instrumental palette so that the focus shifts to O'Halloran's sparse piano playing and the atmospheric ambient washes that blossom alongside it. “Minuet for a Cheap Piano Number Two” offers more of the kind of spine-tingling piano-based material O'Halloran has given us on the recordings Lumiere (130701) and Vorleben (Sonic Pieces) and shows once again that simplicity and restraint can engender music of deep feeling. The thirteen-minute “A Symphony Pathe´tique” is the recording's apotheosis, a majestic exemplar of ambient splendour that finds the duo weaving hushed strings and piano sprinkles into a delicate and hymnal whole.Recorded in the Grunewald Church in West Berlin, the East Berlin DDR radio studios along the River Spree, and in a private studio in northern Italy, A Winged Victory For The Sullen was processed analogue straight to magnetic tape. As a result, the material breathes with a natural grace, and the occasional ambient trace of the recording context that sneaks in only makes the recording feel more alive. Listeners familiar with the work of the participants won't be surprised by the music's stately and oft-reverent character, with the album's seven exquisite settings filled with longing. Like the music of Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory For The Sullen's is music of quiet grandeur that's all the more powerful for being delivered with such understatement.