#2 A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Atomos

This record is a new recruit to my collection, bought earlier this year, when there was a sale on selected Erased Tapes releases at Fopp. I’d heard the name, knew nothing of their music, but was curious and picked this one out purely on cover alone. It was a wonderful moment to get it home and discover such musical perfection.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen is one of the more ridiculous band names in a very competitive field, and is apparently taken from a Greek statue entitled ‘nike samothrice’ with the ‘sullen’ added by the group as it befits the sound of their music. With that in mind, you might expect them to be a large collaboration on a symphonic scale like the Polyphonic Spree or Broken Social Scene, but although the music at times is symphonic in scope, it is fact just two men – Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran. The latter I was familiar with from his presence on the Transcendentalists concert I attended at the Barbican in May 2012, where he featured alongside Hauschka and Johann Johannsson. I’m digressing I know, but as concerts go, this was a quiet explosion for me personally. I went on my own, and it was my first introduction to these three great musicians.

Anyway, Atomos is AWVFTS (as they’re known to their friends) second LP, commissioned by the acclaimed British choreographer Wayne McGregor and performed by his Random Dance group. I probably would have gone to see the ballet at the time, since the whole concept appeals to me, but was living out of the UK at the time. You can get a feel for it here.

On the album, slightly longer and augmented from the version produced for the ballet, the tracks (from Atomos I to Atomos XII) merge and morph into one another. The music centres around O’Halloran’s sensitive piano playing (check out his solo stuff) suffused in Wiltzie’s drone wizardry. The overall feel is familiar to anyone attracted to the ambient, neo-classical, orchestral-drone that is common amongst soundtrack composers these days (Johannsson, Richter et al). Indeed, outside of this side project, O’Halloran has composed many TV and film soundtracks, notably Transparent, Lion (with Hauschka), God’s Own Country and the current cinema release from the bestselling YA novel, The Hate U Give.

After listening to this I feel both awash with emotion and spiritually cleansed. Yet I am left with one unanswered question – whatever happened to Atomos IV?

Best Bits: The piano-led motifs from O’Halloran swathed in Wiltzie’s orchestral atmospherics
Genre: Ambient Neo-Classical Drone
Like This, Try This: Max Richter’s piece for the Royal Ballet (UK), also commissioned by Wayne McGregor – Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works

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