Published Apr 28, 2014A Winged Victory for the Sullen represents the collective efforts of engineer Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) and pianist Dustin O'Halloran. Apparently, choreographer Wayne McGregor was so enamoured with their 2011 debut album that he commissioned them to write a piece for his company. Where Infra, McGregor's collaboration between Max Richter and the Royal Ballet, took T.S. Eliot's 1922 modernist poem "The Waste Land" as its inspiration, the Atomos project implies the form of the atom, breaking down "bodies, movement, film, sound and light into miniature shards of intense sensation." Since Atomos VII only contains a single track from the full score, one only gets a preview of how this collaborative process all played out, but it is an eight-minute long preview.
"Atomos VII" comes on subtly, just a whisper of droning strings, until surges of a fractured melody start coming in, building up for another minute as the drone swells to a crescendo underneath, resolving to a more organ-like drone in which the piece almost resets. Around the five-minute mark, a synthetic beat briefly surfaces alongside the fractured melody and a new timbre, a staccato cello line. It all subsides a minute later as the organ drone transitions to an uplifting ambient string gesture, then settles into the texture with the beat until the fadeout. One can almost picture the associated movement as the piece progresses.
The EP is rounded out by the mournful "Minuet for a Cheap Piano Number One" meditation, a leftover from their debut album, and a remix of the title track by Ben Frost (who also worked with McGregor for his FAR project). Frost's so-called "Greenhouse Re-Interpretation" of "Atomos VII" begins with what sounds like an iron lung, leading to a gauzy, woozy sway similar to the original's outro. Frost's predilection for organized chaos rises about a third of the way in, as chiselled noise frays apart the fringes of the sweet string drone before simmering back into the void. It's a thoughtful blend of both their aesthetics. (Erased Tapes/Kranky)