A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Atomos

by paul_guyet Rating:9 Release Date:2014-10-06

I can't think of many artists whose name better reflects their art. Everything Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) and contemporary classical composer Dustin O'Halloran have released under the moniker A Winged Victory for the Sullen (AWVFTS) has the feeling of a costly achievement, a balance of triumphant glory and infinite sadness; a warm, sun-drenched lake in a quiet woods just within sight of a graveyard. They explore the true, exquisite beauty of melancholy.

I had the pleasure of experiencing Atomos in its intended setting: as the accompaniment to Random Dance Company founder, Wayne McGregor's new work of the same name*. Something interesting I noticed while going through the album divorced of its original setting was that the simplistic, tragic splendor inherent in the music was far more present. 

The instrumentation leans heavily towards piano and strings, although there is a strong electronic presence as well. Atomos opens with 'Atomos I' and its breathtaking lunar swells, 'Atomos V' is underscored by a watery pulse that, while a touch jarring, adds a welcomed layer of texture. 'Atomos VI', with its gentle throbs and waves of light, and subdued explosions of color, is my favorite piece here.

One of the themes explored in the dance piece as well as the music is technology, and its potential destructive capabilities, as exemplified, perfectly, by the distinct future-as-viewed-from-the-past feel of 'Atomos VII', the disturbing blur of truncated, jabbering voices floating underneath the troubled ocean of 'Atomos IX' and 'Atomos X', which could be the sound of the very end of human civilization, brought on by information poisoning. The album closes with 'Atomos XII', which centers around a five-note phrase, repeating throughout, cold and lonely.

Atomos is more focused than AWVFTS's self-titled debut, utilizing a richer palette of sounds in more varied environs, and, although it was created to accompany the gorgeous Wayne McGregor dance piece, the music undeniably stands on its own as an emotional masterpiece, shining darkly, like tears at night.

* You might know his work from the 

', which he also choreographed.

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