A Winged Victory for the Sullen is the name employed by Adam Wiltzie (of Stars of the Lid) and composer Dustin O’Halloran when working in tandem. They have, together, committed wonderfully drone-informed explorations of what might be called contemporary classical, except to the extent that so many of its participants welcome the word “classical” with the same enthusiasm that might meet an invitation to a high-school reunion. In this live recording, performed with the ACME Contemporary Music Ensemble (here listed as ACME String Ensemble) live in Seattle (date and place left unspecified), they present the most subdued portion of “Fratres,” a famed and oft-revisited work by Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer known for his bracing mix of spiritual and minimalist intensity.
Minus the piece’s frenzied violin solo, it is a swell of sound that comes and goes like a playground swing kept aloft by the wind. The haphazard live-recording acoustics just add to its dusty figurations. O’Halloran and Wiltzie in effect proclaimed their modus operandi with the title of the first track of their self-titled album from 2011; the track: “We Played Some Open Chords.” A later track on the same album might also suffice: “Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears.” Along with the likes of Nils Frahm and Rachel’s, anong others, A Winged Victory for the Sullen are openly nostalgic and emotive in a way that brings to mind the heart-on-the-sleeve emotional awareness of much indie-rock. Pärt’s “Frartes” makes a natural choice for its role as retroactively adopted precedent to what A Winged Victory for the Sullen is currently up to. The association is as natural as Billy Bragg covering Pete Seeger or Alexandre Desplat giving the nod to John Williams.
Here’s the complete A Winged Victory for the Sullen, released by Kranky in 2011:
The Arvo Pärt track was originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/alliedee. More from the duo at awvfts.com. More from O’Halloran at dustinohalloran.com. More from Wiltzie’s Stars of the Lid at brainwashed.com/sotl.