Winged Victory for the Sullen

It’s probably why music lovers return to the form over and over again, why they try out new genres and artists. It’s the unpredictability of what the next album will be like that will consume us, to take us somewhere new. Whether its the immediacy of pop, the aggressive statement of intent of punk, the evocation of a time or a place in folk music music can seize us, demand our attention and then reward us in a way that some call art. For some, the lyric and its delivery are key signposting a journey through a song. Beyond this traditional rock and roll landscape lies an increasingly rich area of experimentation. Whether you call it Post-Rock, Ambient, Shoegazing or Minimalism there’s a key difference in that the listener must bring themselves into the music and take their own journey.

It’s against this backdrop that we must consider A Winged Victory for the Sullen; a quiet, calm contemplative piece; a rich soundscape in which to lose yourself. A classic of its genre; and for some, the record of the year.

Adam Wiltzie was playing with Sparklehorse in Italy and invited some friends to a concert. A friend of a friend, composer Dustin O'Halloran came along and the two met backstage. From this initial meeting a musical collaboration was inspired that has led the two to explore an open sonic landscape together. Freeing themselves from home studios the duo sought out instruments and muscians to draw upon; to establish a range of tones on which their pieces could inhabit.

The result is a post-rock album with classical leanings or vice versa. Building on piano and strings the songs ebb and flow, washing over the listener, transporting them somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere worth staying. There’s an undertone of sorrow and introspection to these pieces, which is underlined by “In Requiem For The Static King Part One” being created to mark the untimely passing of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous.

This isn’t to say that this album is some sort of “Now that what I call a soundtrack to manic depression volume 1”. To do so would be to belittle its timeless grace and its beauty. Where some struggle to do so, this has pushed through the post-rock barriers and taken it into an arena in which it can be valued as a work of art on its own terms. It has no connection to modern musical stylings and as such will sustain and be considered a classic for many years to come. The hunt is over, welcome to the best album of 2011.

Overall

9

out of 10

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