A Winged Victory For The Sullen is a project involving Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid. They create instrumental music which some refer to as modern classical. This sort of music tends to attract many superlatives, so one’s instinct is to dismiss the praise and search for flaws, grimly determined to make your own mind up. Every so often however, you have to accept that a raved-about collection of music is in fact, really good. This is their second album, a soundtrack to a dance piece by Wayne McGregor. It’s clearly a very graceful dance.
The tracks themselves are numbered Atomos I to XII with the mysterious omission of IV. I opens with a fairly uplifting melody played on a bed strings which fall away halfway through to allow O’Halloran’s piano to take centre stage. The effect is akin to being enveloped in soothing sounds, II continues with a little lone violin occupying the foreground. There are some quite lovely touches across the album, the stately piano in III and IX, the serene, wintry drift of VI, the incorporation of what appears to be a distorted babble of conversation on Ix and X.
The album leans more towards ambient drone than the debut, V and X rely heavily on ambient electronics, the latter appearing to be the warped yang to I’s ying (XII uses this theme as the album’s coda). XI is one of the more dramatic pieces here, swelling from a relatively simple piano to be joined by a full string section. But rather than isolating individual tracks, succumbing to the album as a whole works best. Startlingly good.