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A Winged Victory for the Sullen

A Winged Victory For The Sullen

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Album Review

Starting with the steady, contemplative piano and slight feedback on the opening "We Played Some Open Chords," A Winged Victory for the Sullen can't be called a barrel of laughs per se, but their song titles — not to mention their band name — suggest a knowing playfulness with the conventions of moodily beautiful 21st century drone/ambient. Given that the core members are composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid veteran Adam Wiltzie, it's little surprise that both those conventions, and how to work well beyond them, are within their grasp on this debut release. Much like some Stars of the Lid releases, the album and song names may verge on the wry, but without that context, something like the slow strings and feeling of suffused sorrow on the first part of "Requiem for the Static King," or the involving textures of "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" simply are what they are, and quite beautifully so at that. While the sonic connections to the members' past work are clear, so are the distinctions; if the duo is less about full-on beautiful drones than Stars of the Lid often were, there's a similar appreciation for the slowly unfolding and the calmly insular, touchstones ranging as far as George Winston as Eno ("A Symphony Pathetique," almost exclusively piano aside from some distant shading that appears a little more clearly toward the end, is arguably the extreme of this approach on the album, elegantly done every step of the way). Even with the titular or seeming snark brought to bear, the feeling often seems simply appropriate more than anything else — "Minuet for a Cheap Piano" is almost just that, counting the extra layered tones in the background, while "All Farewells Are Sudden" doesn't close out the album on a quick, final note but a soft, string piece fade, a slow wheezing of tone and delay that's a conclusion and a half when it comes to wrapping things up with a gentle bow.

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran must get on very well. They have combined here to release their first collaborative work, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, and done so in spectacular fashion. Guest appearances by the Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir and violinist Peter Broderick only excite our neurons further. Delicate and restrained in its approach, this album is undeniably affecting.

Wiltzie, one half of Stars of the Lid, is well versed at producing music that unfolds slowly, gradually enveloping the listener. There are shades of that here, but O’Halloran’s contributions add structure and focus to the experience. On some tracks it is O’Halloran who is in the foreground. “Minuet for a Cheap Piano Number Two” is a beautifully haunting piano led piece that aches with sadness. But elsewhere we find “Requiem for a Static King (Part 1)”, a song that would not feel out of place on a Stars of the Lid album.

For the most part, though, the album represents new territory for both artists. Their subtle, contemplative approaches combine to form a work that is deeply moving. At times it feels as if I’m listening to the soundtrack to a film about beautiful characters living tragic lives. If this is the effect Wiltzie and O’Halloran were hoping to achieve, they were certainly not in a hurry to do so. The songs seem to take single, often simple, ideas and meditate on them, allowing them to unfold and develop in their own time. This concept is never more apparent than in the album’s closing, and perhaps strongest, track “All Farewells are Sudden”, where less really is more.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen will move most who give it the time and attention it deserves. It represents the perfect blend of two wonderfully gifted musicians who have crafted an album that stands out as one of the very best of 2011. The album is co-released by Chicago based Kranky and London based Erased Tapes Records.


A collaboration of composers Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.. Absolutely beautfiul. I revere the music created by Dustin O'Halloran, and this collaboration is no exception. Funny that there's no info on the album on iTunes.. for details just google awvfts .

Pure brilliance



Formed: 2007

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

Pianist/composer Dustin O'Halloran and composer/engineer Adam Wiltzie met through a mutual friend in 2007, when Wiltzie was performing with Sparklehorse in Bologna, Italy. Backstage, the two musicians struck up a friendship that developed into a Winged Victory for the Sullen, an outlet for what they've termed "harmonic Robitussin." Over the course of two years, O'Halloran (formerly of Devics and the composer of the score for Marie Antoinette, among other films) and Wiltzie (known most for his role...
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A Winged Victory for the Sullen, A Winged Victory For The Sullen
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