A Winged Victory for the Sullen – NCH, Dublin – 03/03/20 – Live Review
by Killian Laher
This was the first visit to Ireland by A Winged Victory for the Sullen for five years. One of the key practitioners of drone-influenced, string-based instrumental music, you would have expected a larger crowd as the venue was by no means full. However, those who were in attendance were treated to a special evening. Support came from French/American composer Daniel Wohl, who played a couple of lengthy, meandering electronic pieces, which lurched from melodic to ambient noise and back again. It worked well in parts but at other points seemed to disappear into itself, polarising many in the audience.
Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie were accompanied by a three-piece string section, two trombone players and an Italian keyboard player, with the two main men flanking them either side of the stage. Opening with the glacially-paced Our Lord Debussy, the pieces were if anything enhanced by the presence of brass, the multi-part ensemble pushed the music right into the foreground. The evening was highly immersive, each sumptuous piece was accompanied by a fine light display. While there were plenty of selections from The Undivided Five such as Aqualung, Motherfucker and Adios, Florida, they also reached back to Atomos and their debut, for We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced. Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears is a high point in their catalogue and so it proved on the night, the piece building from deep drones to soaring strings.
Their music is not instantly accessible, and can often take several listens to draw you in, making them a little challenging for the uninitiated. They avoid the obvious climaxes and crescendos associated with this kind of music and the slow build lost a few members of the audience to forty winks. But for the discerning listener, O’Halloran, Wiltzie and co provide serious bliss.