PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

A Winged Victory for the Sullen's 'The Undivided Five' Is a Breathtaking Album Full of Subtlety

Photo: Jónatan Grétarsson / Courtesy of Ninja Tune

Each track of ambient duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen's The Undivided Five captures the sound of two exceptional musicians drawing in deep musical breaths and then exhaling something of lasting ethereal beauty.

The Undivided Five
A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Ninja Tune

1 November 2019

Both classical and ambient electronic music often have the power to transcend the physical and take the listener somewhere otherworldly. By blending the two, Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Wiltzie, as A Winged Victory for the Sullen, do exactly that while also managing to tease out complicated and difficult to articulate emotions.

After working on scores of film, TV, and stage commissions, The Undivided Five is the pair's fifth release together and one that embraces the importance of the number five in art and music. Particularly inspired by Hilma af Klint's work with four other like-minded artists known as the "Friday Group" or "The Five" as well as the importance of the perfect fifth to harmony in music theory.

Musically, the pair weave a rich tapestry of complex electronic and neoclassical textures with layers of rich orchestration and analogue synths. However, it's also an album of contrasts. Many of the pieces seem to be searching for a counterpoint, whether that be a lightness to the darkness, resolution to moments of doubt or ugliness to passages of haunting beauty.

The effortless grandeur of "Our Lord Debussy" opens the album with chilly, gliding strings and dampened piano chords. Throughout the pair build a goosebump-inducing layer of musical elegance from uncommon chord phrases and a thick veneer of complex strings. "Sullen Sonata" features synth samples that the pair chew up and spit out into weightless, atmospheric electronics. There's a lightness and overwhelming stillness to the track as if locked in orbit. However, as the song progresses, the strings lend it a sense of gravity, which quickly draws the whole thing back down to earth.

On "The Haunted Victorian Pencil", the soft piano notes settle gently like fallen autumn leaves. The pair continue the fragile, mournful vibe on "The Slow Descent Has Begun". As violins and cellos intermingle, the pair remove all sense of stability as the piece gentle sinks into a solemn fall. Recorded in various places, including a church near Wiltzie's home, it has a fittingly spiritual feel to it amplified by the natural reverb provided by the high ceilings

"Aqualung Motherfucker" opens with bursts of noise, like the crackle of distant fireworks while ambient swells of synths and strings reveal themselves then disappear like a path that ultimately leads to darkness. "A Minor Fifth Is Made of Phantoms" continues to dance in the shadows. Steady, droning electronics give way to sudden, vivid layers of strings before ending in more resigned fashion as the strings fade out.

Over modular synth textures, "Adios, Florida" finds the hope and possibilities in goodbye while on "The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair", the duo tease the subtlest of melodies from various analogue synths. It's quietly stunning with the band slowly drawing light and air into the piece.

The closing song "Keep It Dark Deutschland" is an ode to the place where the band was born. Reflecting a time when their musical collaboration provided solace and reassurance from outside challenges and anxieties, the music finds hope in the darkness. As ambient strings and synths drift and then dissolve, the track invites the listener to meditate on the places that shape us.

The Undivided Five is an often breathtaking album full of subtlety. Open any door, and there is a deftly constructed melody waiting behind it, ready to wrap you in its arms. Each track captures the sound of two exceptional musicians drawing in deep musical breaths and then exhaling something of lasting ethereal beauty.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.