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Album Review: A Winged Victory For the Sullen – Atomos

Artist: A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Album: Atomos
Tracks: 12
Release Date: 6th October
Label: Kranky/Erased Records

Following their eponymous début in 2011, American-born duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen released their second album Atomos on the 6th October, through Kranky/Erased Records.

The first album A Winged Victory for the Sullen came about four years after Adam Wiltzie met Dustin O’Halloran in Berlin, while Wiltzie was touring with a band called Sparklehorse. The tragic death of Sparklehorse’s front-man Mark Linkous in 2010 was a post-humous influence that inspired the ambience on A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s début. The latest record continues to hold the ambient themes, but while the modus operandi may be similar, the task they were set was something very different.

It’s nearly impossible to talk about any ambient record without, at least alluding to one of music’s great pioneers: Brian Eno. His influence on the genre is as far reaching as it is significant. It was recommended that Discreet Music should be played in hospitals and Music for Airports was, well, music for airports. There was an idea, a theme, and the music was created from that conception. AWVFTS were set the task of writing the score for a ballet, the result of which is Atomos, and the results are overwhelming. This record oozes beauty and boasts a sophisticated brand of ambience, a textbook example of the genre’s evolution from this record’s more rudimentary predecessors.

What this record does so well is that it utilizes sequences of empty space alongside an abundance of instrumentation and harmony.  This polarization creates the sensation that the music is seamless, each track bleeds gently, often unnoticeable, into the next. Far from being “background music”, the album is captivating and demands your attention. Ostinatos layered on top of one another, simple chord progressions that build with intensity and gorgeous string arrangements all contribute to the mesmerizing qualities of this LP.  The instrumentation is superb. Melancholic piano, eerie synths and the aforementioned strings are all used elegantly, culminating in a rich, soporific sound, the record’s most noticeable characteristic from start to finish.

The real issue I’m having, is with finding an application for this album, the proverbial “airport”, so to speak.  The album came in to being almost by accident, the intention was to write the ballet score but it was later in the process of doing so, the duo realized they had written their second studio album. With this in mind, when would be the appropriate time to appreciate Atomos without the visual elements of a live ballet? It’s an issue that could trouble the more cynical listener who would dub the creations within this genre “pretentious”. That said, the ease with which the music washes over you so pleasingly suggests you should make time and fully enjoy this record for what it is, not necessarily what it was designed to be. Atomos is available from October 6th.

If you would like to hear more about A Winged Victory for the Sullen, you can click the links below: 
AWVFTS’s Facebook | AWVFTS’s Official Website | AWVFTS’s Twitter 

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