Having Dustin O’Halloran collaborating with Adam Wiltzie from Stars Of The Lid is like being served with a square of the orchestrated ambient. Pairing O’Halloran’s ear for simplicity and emotionality with Wiltzie’s mastery in shadowy atmospheres results in a strangely named project A Winged Victory For The Sullen. Although their name itself looks bit cliché with its references to wings and victory as bearers of some unexpected triumph for the skeptical and glum, the first song from their forthcoming self-titled debut somehow proves their lucky hand in choosing appropriate name for their project.
As expected, Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears is a moody and dreamy piece on the border between lush ambient and bare contemporary classical music. What differentiates A Winged Victory For The Sullen from their contemporaries is the right balance between sentimentality and warm melancholy and a magic equilibrium of minimalism, which is not too simple, but still not complicated or ornate. In their first “single” Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears O’Halloran and Wiltzie work with gradual building of the upcoming and slowly evolving grandeur. I believe it’s the patience which ensures that the moment of delightful beatitude expressed by blissful strings comes in the right moment – the texture below is massive, the layers of horns and piano in absolute harmony and the listener in the highest peak of his anticipation.
The climax of Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears reminds me a bit of Ólafur Arnalds’ composition Þau hafa sloppið undan þunga myrkursins, which closes his second album. Along with vigorous strings and piano Arnalds uses heavy percussion and drums that even strengthen the immediacy and resilience of the most important culmination on his record. Yet, A Winged Victory For The Sullen decided for something different: it’s a tiny dose of holding and retaining the composition from peaking what results in even a greater crescendo. Therefore, Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears is not just a flow of splendour, but also an exhibition of O’Halloran and Wiltzie’s arranger talent. Their self-titled debut is soon out on Erased Tapes, home to Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm among others.