Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Self-Titled


Those of you who know me, know that I have somewhat eclectic tastes when it comes to music.  It may not be so apparent, given my top 10 of the year so far, but I do love it when I find an album that is completely different from what I'm used to.  That's why I'm so glad I checked out A Winged Victory for the Sullen.  I recently discovered them when they were featured over at Absolutepunk.net.  A Winged Victory for the Sullen consists of composers, Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O'Halloran, which began as an experiment to see if they could compose an album together.  Well, they succeeded, and the result is one of the most beautiful instrumental albums of the year.

The first track of the album, "We Played Some Open Chords", starts with what sounds like an orchestra warming up just before a performance.  This is immediately followed by the gentle strike of the piano as it leads us into the flowing, emotional body of this first piece.  Perhaps it's just the time of year, but this song invoked an image of a steady breeze swaying the branches of a tree as its leaves gently fall to the ground.  The following two tracks make up "Requiem for the Static King".  Again, these songs traverse a winding ambience. However, in "Part 1", the listener is led by a brilliant, melancholy melody of strings, while in "Part 2", we are left to explore the full embodiment of ambience followed by an intermittent piano that eventually steers our ears towards the end.  The piano then takes the forefront in "Minuet for a Cheap Piano".  Both "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" and "A Symphony of Pathetique" boast enchanting crescendos that build to a haunting ensemble of strings.  I particularly loved how "A Symphony of Pathetique" starts with rain-drops of piano chords accompanied by a tender background of strings that build to the song's climax at its middle, only to return to the gentle raps of the piano at the end.  The song is truly stunning, as some of the best chords flourish here.  The album then finishes off with "All Farewells Are Sudden", in which the listener is, again, shrouded by a dark ambience, but is then led to the end by piano.

It is possible that some might feel a sense of sameness throughout the album.  This is, in part, due to the slow and steady ambience created in the background of each song.  One would imagine this was done on purpose to connect all of the songs.  Wiltzie and O'Halloran manage, however, to include such varying melodies, chord changes, and crescendos to keep each piece fresh and interesting.  Really, A Winged Victory for the Sullen have created an absolutely beautiful piece of modern classical work in a year otherwise dominated by pop-punk, pop-rock releases.  The emotion and imagery that this album invokes has kept me coming back for more and more listens to see what else I might find hidden away in the music. 

If you are a fan of ambient, instrumental music, or are just looking for something different, I strongly recommend you don't overlook this album.  It is definitely worth a listen.

You can purchase A Winged Victory for the Sullen on iTunes and Amazon.

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