Since it’s release last autumn, Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie’smasterpiece A Winged Victory For The Sullen has rightfully claimedpraise from all quarters, its meditative, almost cinematic characterperfectly suiting the long evenings that followed shortly. Given the warm,inviting nature of the music off their self-titled debut album, it’s fittingthat their London date (in the grandiose setting of Cecil Sharp House)offers a respite from the bitterly cold climes which have suddenly swept thecapital.
Those arriving early expecting support Sleepingdog to be merely avariation on A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s vast soundscapes were in fora surprise. While very much another one of Adam Wiltzie’s many brainwaves(and at times using the sweeping sonic swathes that define A Winged VictoryFor The Sullen’s sound) it’s a far more structured, almost pastoralarrangement that recalls last year’s acclaimed Lanterns On The Lake,or instrumentation that recalls Ballboy at their most beautiful.Led by the chiming, interweaving guitars of Wiltzie and co-conspiratorChantal Acda, and then garnished with the latter’s mesmerising hushedvocals, the end result is a multi-layered, haunting vision of nocturnal,ambient pop music. As an exercise in enchanting the crowd before the mainact, Wiltzie & Co do a spellbinding job.
When it’s time for the main act to appear, they take to the stage quietlyand without fanfare. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Coming off theback of an album that is characterised by a certain dignified majesty ifanything it’s entirely befitting. Wiltzie and O’Halloran are backed up witha three-piece string section throughout the performance, and play theself-titled debut (advertised tonight as “7 songs about broken hearts anddead people”) in full. From the opening chords of WePlayed Some Open Chords And Rejoiced For The Earth Had Circled The Sun ForYet Another Year it’s clear that there’s a near perfect synergy between bandand venue, with O’Halloran’s delicate piano reverberating around the room,while the rich string accompaniment is given the space it needs to trulyflourish.
It’s a theme that continues throughout the evening, with thehaunting beauty of Requiem For The Static King Part 2 especially providing amesmerising and hypnotic highlight as it ebbs and swells to its conclusion.With the heartbreaking A Symphony Pathetique and the sweeping All FarewellsAre Sudden ending the album, it was left to Wiltzie and O’Halloran to unveila joker card (humbly introduced as “something we knocked up in casesomething went wrong”) – a seemingly untitled piece which, if a precursor toany further work, demonstrates the possibility of a darker, more dramaticsound than has been seen in their work so far.
As the crowd filters out, back into the cold of the winter evening, manystill seem entranced by what they’ve just seen and heard. As well theymight, given the stunning rendition of an already breathtaking piece ofwork. Any concerns about how well it would transfer live have been well andtruly banished, and their vision of making a truly great late night recordhas been conclusively realised.