BEST OF 2014: 29. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos

Modern-classical label Erased Tapes is reaching the point where any of its releases can be bought risk-free, safe in the knowledge that the music therein will be breathtakingly beautiful. Last year, I was more than a little taken with their celebratory 7″ box set, which offered a decent overview of their magical roster. Peter Broderick, Rival Consoles and the staggeringly splendid Nils Frahm are amongst their artists, with A Winged Victory For The Sullen proving to be suitably impressive colleagues. A partnership formed by Dustin O’Halloran, whose 2011 solo effort ‘Lumiere‘ is worth seeking out, and Stars Of The Lid‘s Brian McBride, they offered up their first, self-titled outing three years ago. It was a slight, but stirring set which only really grew in my affections in recent times. The early signs that the two artists had stepped it up a gear were present on the track they contributed to last year’s box, as well as April’s ‘Atomos VII’ teaser EP.


Atomos‘, comprising eleven tracks simply titled ‘Atomos I-XII‘ with the curious omission of ‘Atomos IV‘, is a score for a dance piece by Wayne McGregor of the same name, more than sustains this reputation, building on the ambient duo’s debut and occupying a majestically sparse soundstage. I often struggle to truly capture modern classical music in words and, when reviewing albums like this, it’s one of the few times when I’m glad I only have 105 words to play with. This is music that seeps inside you and pulls you along with it. Give it the time and attention it so richly deserves and it will more than reward you with the kind of euphoric swells that only strings can truly offer. I’ve seen plenty of commenters responding to positive reviews of this record with accusations of banality, but when it comes to ambient modern classical music I think you either get it or you don’t. If some of Frahm’s calmer work has previously played free and loose with your emotions, then this will surely delight in similar fashion.

Think of the eye-poppingly tense moments in any given noirish Danish drama and ‘Atomos XII‘ will remind you of the accompanying soundtrack. Indeed, whether it’s the ambitious opener ‘Atomos I’, with its ten-minute trajectory divided into almost claustrophobically dense strings and then celestial synths, or the transcendent swell of ‘Atomos VIII’, this is a slow-burning, deeply resonant collection with a stirring potency and the capacity to truly wow.


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