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A Winged Victory For The Sullen – The Undivided Five

“a profound realisation of life, death, the afterlife, and the spaces in between”.

Berlin/Brussels based ambient duo A Winged Victory For The Sullen return with third* studio album The Undivided Five. The pair comprises Adam Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid, Sleepingdog) and Dustin O’Halloran (Devics), both American and now based in Europe. The ‘Five’ in the title refers to both the five senses and the harmonic ‘perfect fifth and the records theme has been described as “a profound realisation of life, death, the afterlife, and the spaces in between”. Why does “third” have an asterisk against it? The Undivided Five could actually be considered their fifth long player if we include soundtracks. I certainly do. We have to. There are all manner of links and crossovers upon which we will come shortly. Isn’t all music a ‘soundtrack’ in some way or another? The Undivided Five certainly could be. A bittersweet one too. One of O’Halloran and Wiltzie’s closest friends died at the beginning of the albums recording sessions, at which point O’Halloran also learned he was to become a father for the first time.

The Undivided Five is an elegant and refined piece of neoclassical. It features 9 tracks, consisting of strings, piano and modular synthesizers. The album opens with ‘Our Lord Debussy’, a tribute, obviously to Claude Debussy but also to their friend and collaborator the late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson. ‘Our Lord Debussy’ sets the tone for the entire album, melancholic, but melodic and accessible with it. ‘Adios, Florida’ is another album highlight, sounding as though it fell from the latest Hammock trilogy and into the hands of Max Richter. Two other pieces have been selected as promotional videos, namely ‘The Rhythm Of A Dividing Pair’ which nods toward WARP and Aphex Twin in particular and ‘Keep It Dark, Deutschland’ which is actually the albums closing piece. You’ll find both embedded below but for me the best promotional video is the six minute ‘Making of’ film. (Also below) Here you see the band working in a church in Brussels, Ben Frosts studio in Iceland and Magyar Rádió, Budapest’s official international broadcasting station which still today feels loaded with the vibe of post-war Soviet Union.

The Undivided Five is subtle and intricate. No crashing Brahms romanticism here. Chris Nolan wouldn’t use A Winged Victory For The Sullen but Denis Villeneuve would. Time will tell whether this is the pairs best work to date. Yet with time running out in 2019 The Undivided Five will certainly be among this years best. A modern masterpiece.

The Undivided Five is out now on Ninja Tune.

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