Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Village Underground, Shoreditch, London, 1st October


Supporting A Winged Victory For The Sullen could be a thankless task but Douglas Dare was worthy of his spot.  He played a subtle and evocative set of aching torch ballads, wounded vocals soaring over minimal piano compositions, full of storm tossed note clusters and deep plunging chords.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen then took to the stage to perform pieces from their upcoming live soundtracking of a dance performance.  From a doomy, misty opening, the  string quintet commenced playing long sweeping sighs amid sustained organ chords from Dustin O’Halloran, and mingling drones from Adam Wiltzie's guitar.  O’Halloran picked out thick isolated blocks of ringing sound.  The quintet throughout were a scatter of scraping beauty, a polyphony of stretched singing wires; a calming slow embrace, a wrapping of limbs, and a confluence of breath.  The sound from the group as a whole was filled with a chamber elegance and a whispering electronic low-end.  The new material was tender and cleansing, lacking some of the melodic hooks from their self-titled album, but compensating with new music of enormous beauty.  During ‘We Played Some Open Chords…’ there was a sense of time stilled, a contemplation of stasis, the bass rumble holding the simple melodic piano fragments in a wash of room-filling hazy bone-wobbling drift; the strings when they enter are entirely captivating and hypnotic, like the unbroken gaze of a lover, a dark pool of sound in which to sink without trace.  The compositions contracted and expanded in a natural biologically sympathetic rhythm; a comfortable music wearable like a second skin.  The album pieces were perhaps more satisfying because of their familiarity; but the new music felt more open, a sense of stretching out and reaching for the horizon; it lost none of the magic of their previous work.  The fourth piece, in particular, was extremely moving, consisting of a gathering drone joined by a frayed violin; a sub-bass quake stripped back to reveal an underlying softly burring cello.


A Winged Victory For The Sullen offer a music of anticipation, a yearning resolved in simple melodic relief; achieved with a subtle complexity that is vastly rewarding.  They operate with an elegance of execution, a Reichian multi-phasing evident in places.  There is a masterful command of medium and material, a total synthesis of harmonic nuance and emotional weight.  They sound like a gently but inexorably swelling tide.  The sound of solace, of coming home.  A sadness balmed.  A comfort. 

Quite simply, a necessary band.

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