Posts Tagged ‘A Winged Victory For The Sullen’
Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.
“I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.”
—Dustin O’ Halloran
The highly anticipated arrival of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s third full-length, ‘Iris’ marked the commencement of the New Year. The awe-inspiring duo of Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’ Halloran have carved out some of the most vital and captivating modern-classical-infused-ambient explorations, in the shape of the band’s eponymous debut record and sophomore full-length ‘Atomos’: each record represents a beautiful time capsule, steeped in divine beauty.
On the ‘Iris’ film score, the band masterfully expand their sonic palette with use of analogue equipment. The results are nothing short of staggering as the otherworldly sound world of Mica Levi’s ‘Under The Skin’ is navigated amidst a beguiling atmosphere and forever-building wall of intense emotion. The opening ‘Prologue Iris’ is built on an achingly beautiful piano melody (similar to Wiltzie’s gorgeous ‘Salero’ debut solo score). A vast sea of symphonic sounds is combined with pulsating synthesizers on ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives on the scintillating ‘Gare Du Nord, Part 1’ where organic and synthetic worlds fuse together.
The recording sessions began with their long time sound collaborator Francesco Donadello in the form of some modular synth sessions in Berlin. The final sessions to what is now the score of Iris were recorded with a 40-piece string orchestra at Magyar Radio in Budapest. ‘Iris’ also features the duo’s trusted string quartet, Echo Collective.
‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.
Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.
Congratulations Dustin on the new Winged Victory record; the ‘Iris’ score is really amazing. I’d love for you to discuss the making of this record? One aspect I love is – in contrast to the previous two records – the addition of all the beautiful synthesizer elements and seamless mix of analog with the strings in these new pieces.
DO’H: That was a bit of a collaboration. When Jalil Lespert – the director – he heard ‘Atomos’ and he really thought that was the sound for his film and he wanted us to explore a more electronic side for his film. At the same time, Adam [Wiltzie] and I have been getting into working with modular synth, working with our long-time collaborator Francesco Donadello. It was something we wanted to explore as well so we ended up doing some sessions with modular synth and we liked the idea of this very organic electronic element. The thing we love with the modular synth is that you can’t ever repeat it: it’s a real instrument and there’s no settings to save so you have to capture performances. It was an element that we were just exploring but we were really pleased with how it works with our sound. And it was a nice, new element to bring in and explore.
As you mentioned those sessions with Francesco, would that have been in isolation or before you ever got to writing for the string parts and so on?
DO’H: When we started work on the film – around the time he gave us the script and he hadn’t shot anything yet – so there was a lot of time to just do some experiments. So, the first experiments happened just with modular and some of the pieces are really built from those first sessions. The film has a thriller element to it so we needed also to create tension. We were bringing in this idea of pulses and things to give us movement that would move us along but still have a tonal identity and a sound identity. So, some of the pieces were really built from those first sessions.
The beauty of ‘Iris’ – and indeed all the many scores you have created – is how it’s very much a new studio album as it is an actual score for a movie as it works so well on its own.
DO’H: Yeah, you never know what you’re going to have at the end of a commission or collaboration like this. I think we’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to start in the way we make our own records and we had a lot of time. Then we took the pieces and what we released is more our vision for a stand-alone record so we’re able to go back into the tracks and rework them a bit and make more of a studio record out of it. We were happy with what we got, I think it feels connected to our sound but it’s an evolution as well.
And as you say, the atmosphere, there’s a collection of the more electronic pieces work so powerfully, such as ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’ and ‘Gare du Nord Pt. 1’, there’s something quite breath-taking when the synths come in: there’s the space for it and you’re waiting for them to appear.
DO’H: We’re happy with how the modular and the orchestra work well together. We tended to use the modular for the lower end sounds and working with space and rhythm and then having the orchestra. It’s like light and dark is a big subject of the film; it’s a love story but there’s also a lot of deceit and treachery and so the film is always like light and dark fighting against each other in this way. The modular has this more aggressive, synthetic, cold feeling and the strings are definitely this warmer love story that ultimately both elements are in the story.
I wonder for those final sessions in Budapest – for you and Adam as the composers of the music – it must be quite something when you’re all in this room and you hear this big ensemble perform the music at the final end of it all?
DO’H: Oh yeah, I mean it’s definitely a satisfying moment when it all comes alive. I love recording with real instruments and it’s always something very important to me. I think with Winged Victory too, we’re always trying to put as much care sonically into everything that we do and record it in the best way. I’m a big fan of records that are great sounding records and those are the records that usually stay in my collection so it’s something we try to put a lot of care into.
For those final sessions, is there still room for accidents to happen or surprising things happen in the sense of the music altering in any way?
DO’H: Yeah, I mean up until the point of doing the strings everything is always flexible and changing and we’re exploring different things and obviously, we hear different things. And when you’re recording the modular stuff, it’s a lot of experimenting and sometimes you find something and you’re not even too sure how you got there. By the time we got to the strings everything had to be pretty much worked out but there’s a lot of extended techniques used in the strings – a lot of harmonics and glissando effects – that we did that were really fun to do in the studio. And to get the orchestra make a lot of noise [laughs] and do less traditional sounds and that was fun so we got to explore that a little bit in the studio and then that was the last phase before we mixed.
I was interested to read how it was edited down – well everything is edited for a final mix of the album – was it difficult to see it as both a film score as well as a studio album in the sense that you needed to remove parts to reduce it down?
DO’H: There was always like a push and pull of what we were leaving in and we were pulling back. For some of the studio record we took out some elements that we needed for the film to help push the picture a bit and then there’s other elements that we decided to bring back in that didn’t work so well with the picture. We definitely approached the record because we wanted it to work on its own. I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.
It’s fascinating to see how you have the three studio albums (with Winged Victory) in terms of the speed in which they’re coming out, it feels that there’s a sort of flow between you and Adam where you must always be learning from this partnership?
DO’H: Well I think we’ve been lucky to work on some really great projects and each time we’re definitely learning more about our own process. I think that maybe we’re getting better at working a little bit quicker although there’s a beauty to taking your time and that’s something we just haven’t had the luxury of for a while. So, when we start working on another record, we’re hoping that we will give ourselves a little bit of time and let things percolate, you know that’s something that’s also important to me. With these projects, you have a finite amount of time to work on it but hopefully we’ll be able to take our time again soon but it’s good to know that we can do it and we can be happy with the results.
I must congratulate you also on the amazing ‘Lion’ score and collaboration with Hauschka. It’s wonderful seeing all these musicians and composers and realizing it’s this small community that you’re all releasing amazing albums in your own right whilst collaborating so much with others too. I wonder when did you begin working on this particular project?
DO’H: Yeah, as I was finishing ‘Lion’, Adam and I were starting ‘Iris’ so it was kind of a cross-fade [laughs] But it’s been great, I feel super lucky to be working with people that I love to work with and there’s been so much care. Robert [Raths] has put a lot of love into the releases and we’re grateful to work on some good projects. I mean it’s busy times, the hard part about it is the amount of music you have to produce when there’s a lot of requests, it’s the most demanding aspect but those are good problems to have, you just have to be more diligent and have more time in the studio [laughs].
For ‘Lion’, were you and Volker in the same room together for these sessions?
DO’H: With Volker, we started in our own studios for about a month working on the film and then he came to Los Angeles to work in my studio here and we finished everything here and we worked for about another month. We didn’t have as much time and we came in after the film was already edited so we were in pretty deep pretty quickly.
The same thing happened with you and Adam in the way you spend quite a bit of time in your own respective studios?
DO’H: We try to get together as much as possible (Adam and I) because part of the Winged Victory sound is really both him and I working on stuff together, there’s just something that happens when we’re doing it together, it feels different than when we’re just sending files back and forth because I think we both let go a little bit more when we’re together and we’re able to follow instinctual things quicker and we write quicker as well so it’s always good when we get together.
A very important part of A Winged Victory is the Echo Collective string quartet. I just remember witnessing your live show – and also with Stars of The Lid – and feel the hypnotic effect of the strings, it’s something out of this world when you’re at the live show in one big space.
DO’H: I mean without us finding them, it would be so hard for us to perform live and to translate what we want. We’ve been really lucky. We went through a lot of different string players and we had a lot of bad shows and a lot of shows that didn’t really work out. We’ve been really fortunate to find a bunch of string players that have been so dedicated to helping us find what we need. Our music is very slow-moving and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of string players can look at the sheet music and be really dismissive; it’s actually much harder to get a good sound than it appears on paper. We’ve been really, really lucky, they’re great players, they’re so dedicated to us and I think a lot of other people are starting to work with them because of that dedication that they have. But we definitely couldn’t do it without them, they’re a huge part of our sound.
I loved your solo EP ‘3 Movements’ that came out towards the end of the year.
DO’H: It’s the first time I haven’t collaborated in a while. I’ve been slowly working on different pieces and I’m working on my own solo record but it’s definitely nice to finally get some solo work out [laughs].
And lastly, have there been any live shows that you’ve seen in the last few months that struck a chord with you and have been blown away by?
DO’H: There was a festival that happened in Berlin that the Michelberger Hotel put on, it was at the Funkhaus. There was a twenty-piece choir who performed with Bon Iver who did this acapella piece and it was really beautiful. It was in the old East German recording studios and I forgot how beautiful just the sound of voices is, you know I’ve been listening to so much amplified music and to hear just a choir of voices, it just gave me goosebumps, that was my last moment.
‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.
Welcome to our final mixtape for 2016.
For our last mix we are really excited to share an exclusive first listen of the forthcoming album by Finland’s The Gentleman Losers. Based in Helsinki, The Gentleman Losers comprise the brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka. The duo have released their music on such independent labels as Büro, City Centre Offices, Warp, Nothings66 and Standard Form. Their two full-length releases – 2006’s self-titled debut album and 2009’s sophomore “Dustland” – have been universally acclaimed, winning the hearts of many esteemed music-lovers worldwide, while also being championed by such independent music stalwarts as Germany’s Nils Frahm and UK’s Bibio. The forthcoming third record – the brothers’ latest venture into blissful instrumental music of unknown pleasures – is set to be released during 2017.
December’s mix also features our favourite album of the year: “Upstepping” by UK cellist and composer Oliver Coates. As well as releasing his second solo album earlier this year (via PRAH Recordings) Coates has also released the sublime collaborative work “Remain Calm” (with Mica Levi of Micachu & The Shapes) via the UK label Slip Discs. In addition to a busy schedule of extensive touring and live performances during the year, Coates also performed strings on the current Radiohead album “A Moon Shaped Pool” (XL Recordings).
Other 2016 favourites are featured here, including: Brigid Mae Power (self-titled LP via Tompkins Square), Carla dal Forno (“You Know What It’s Like” via Blackest Ever Black), Kevin Morby (“Singing Saw” via Dead Oceans), Jessy Lanza’s “Oh No” (Hyperdub), Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s “EARS” (Western Vinyl), Amiina’s “Fantômas” (Mengi) and Eluvium’s “False Readings On” (Temporary Residence).
In a year that has all too often thrown up troubling and distressing news and events, it places an even brighter spotlight on the vital role – in expressing emotions, articulating thoughts, distilling messages, blurring boundaries and lighting the way – that music brings to all our lives. In our tiny capacity, we’d like to thank all the musicians, labels and listeners for helping to keep that eternal light flickering.
Wishing our readers and listeners a very happy Christmas and peaceful new year.
Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E12 | December mix
To listen on La Blogothèque:
01. Uncle Charlie – “…today is the thing” (Shadow Of A Doubt)
02. The Caretaker – “It’s just a burning memory” (History Always Favours the Winners)
03. Julianna Barwick – “Heading Home” (excerpt) (Dead Oceans)
04. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – “Closed Circuit” (excerpt) (RVNG Intl)
05. Jessy Lanza – “Going Somewhere” (DVA HI:EMOTIONS Remix) (Hyperdub)
06. Tim Hecker – “Violet Monumental II” (4AD)
07. Arthur Russell – “You And Me Both” (Rough Trade)
08. Oliver Coates – “PERFECT LOVE” (PRAH Recordings)
09. Demdike Stare – “Animal Style” (Modern Love)
10. Grouper – “Headache” (Yellow Electric)
11. The Gentleman Losers – “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Exclusive)
12. Carla dal Forno – “You Know What It’s Like” (Blackest Ever Black)
13. Amiina – “Lady Beltham” (Mengi)
14. Kevin Morby – “Cut Me Down” (Dead Oceans)
15. Dungen – “Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten” (Smalltown Supersound / Mexican Summer)
16. Exploded View – “Stand Your Ground” (Sacred Bones)
17. Brigid Mae Power – “I Left Myself For A While” (Tompkins Square)
18. Ben Frost – “Stormfront” (Bedroom Community)
19. Sarah Neufeld – “They All Came Down” (Paper Bag)
20. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – “Gare du Nord Part One” (Iris OST, Erased Tapes)
21. Philip Glass – “Heroes” (Aphex Twin Remix) (Warp)
22. Eluvium – “Washer Logistics” (Temporary Residence)
23. Leonard Cohen – “The Partisan” (Columbia)
24. Naïm Amor & John Convertino – “Before We Go” (LM Dupli-cation)
25. Calexico – “Gift X-Change” (Our Soil, Our Strength)
Compiled by Fractured Air, December 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.
November’s mixtape contains gorgeous new releases from a host of exceptional voices in today’s independent music world: the peerless L.A. composer and songwriter Julia Holter unveils her debut score (‘Bleed For This’, Milan Records); Australia-born & Berlin-based artist Carla dal Forno whose exceptional avant-pop debut full-length ‘You Know What It’s Like’ marks one of 2016’s finest LPs (Blackest Ever Black); the utterly compelling collaborative project between Mica Levi and Oliver Coates (in the form of ‘Remain Calm’, released recently via Slip) and A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s stunningly beautiful ‘Iris’ original score, which represents the prestigious duo’s third full length release (available digitally now).
Earlier this month marked the sad passing of Leonard Cohen at the age of 82. A true visionary and legendary songwriter, his last studio album ‘You Want It Darker’ was released just weeks before his untimely passing. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s emotional tribute to his good friend echoes powerfully the vital importance of Cohen’s sacred songbook: “Leonard, no other artist’s poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We’ll miss you.”
Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E11 | November mix
To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:
01. DJ Shadow – “The Mountain Will Fall” (Mass Appeal)
02. A Tribe Called Quest – “The Space Program” (Epic)
03. Archangel – “Julia” (Dean Blunt’s On Wine, Hashish & Molly Version Vinyl Edit) (Foom)
04. Underworld – “Low Burn” (Universal Music Group)
05. Dead Light – “Sleeper” (Village Green)
06. Carla dal Forno – “Db Rip” (Blackest Ever Black)
07. Karen Marks – “Cold Café” (Efficient Space)
08. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “Riparian” (Western Vinyl)
09. Mica Levi & Oliver Coates – “Barok Main” (Slip)
10. Dungen – “Peri Banu Vid Sjön” (Smalltown Supersound)
11. case/lang/veirs – “Supermoon” (Anti-)
12. Tortoise (ft. Georgia Hubley) – “Yonder Blue” (Thrill Jockey)
13. Fleetwood Mac – “Albatross” (Reprise)
14. Lambchop – “Writer” (Merge, City Slang)
15. Matt Robertson – “Juno” (Tape Club)
16. Julia Holter – “Home Movies” (Bleed For This OST, Milan)
17. Heather Woods Broderick – “Glider” (Western Vinyl)
18. Loscil – “Drained Lake” (Kranky)
19. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – “Comme on a Dit” (Iris OST, Erased Tapes)
20. Leonard Cohen – “String Reprise / Treaty” (Columbia, Sony Music)
21. Syrinx – “December Angel” (excerpt) (RVNG Intl)
Compiled by Fractured Air, November 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.
Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.
“…when it works, it’s a feeling not even of contentment, it’s a sort of cross between accomplishment, contentment, satisfaction and just where you can sit there for a moment and it feels as if the whole world is OK for a few minutes even though the rest of the time it feels as if it’s about to explode.”
—Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie
Words: Mark Carry
Since releasing their debut record ‘Music For Nitrous Oxide’ in the mid-nineties, Stars of the Lid have been responsible for creating some of the most ground-breaking, singular and innovative ambient music to have graced the earth’s atmosphere. The innate ability of the gifted duo Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride to stretch out space that in turn, creates vast, limitless drones steeped in unimaginable beauty. Each Stars of the Lid record remains a vital musical document whose meaning and significance has only deepened with time.
Brian Eno once said “A studio is an absolute labyrinth of possibilities — this is why records take so long to make because there are millions of permutations of things you can do.” It is abundantly clear across the storied career of Wiltzie and McBride’s sacred works that a labyrinth of possibilities permeate the drone soundscapes and intricately arranged symphonic works of monumental works such as 2007’s ‘And Their Refinement of the Decline’ (the band’s last studio album); ‘The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid’ (using strings, horns and piano to captivating effect) and ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’s utterly compelling ambient explorations. These albums were painstakingly recorded, processed and assembled over long periods of time (for instance, the band’s last studio album was five years in the making). I feel this has become the essence of Stars of the Lid’s resolutely unique musical oeuvre: the listener feels the creator’s sheer devotion to their chosen art being poured through every divine note and aching pulse.
SOTL’s Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride will be embarking on an extensive tour to debut some new compositions, and some old classics with long time visual collaborator and projectionist Luke Savisky, and German lighting designer MFO. On stage this tour will be featuring a new band. Two new members, Robert Donne from Kranky label mates Labradford, and Adam’s long time studio collaborator Francesco Donadello. Plus Brussels residents and A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s string ensemble, the Echo Collective and a vintage Moog 55 Modular Synthesizer.
2016 has already seen Brussels-based Wiltzie provide original scores for a number of feature films including Jalil Lespert’s ‘Iris’, ‘The Yellow Birds’ by Alexandre Moors and Mike Plunkett’s ‘Salero’ (the latter will be released on 11th November 2016 via Erased Tapes).
For full details of Stars of the Lid’s European tour, which kicks off this Saturday (1st October @ Paradiso, Amsterdam) and includes two Irish dates (Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre and Dublin’s National Concert Hall), see HERE.
Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.
I’d love for you to discuss the forthcoming Stars of the Lid European tour itself? It must be very special for you and Brian to be re-united again after being involved with other projects in the interim?
Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie: So, technically it’s been ten years since we released a record. In the meantime, I’ve been really busy doing a lot more soundtrack work and working with A Winged Victory For The Sullen but at the same time, pretty much every year Brian and I have at least done a couple of shows here and there. So we were always there but I think initially it was intentional to step away from it for a while and try something different so I think more and more we’re kind of getting back into it and getting closer and hopefully we’re going to find a way to finally finish the record and so it’s connect a little bit to both, you know getting our feet wet again. And like I said, we haven’t been completely gone away from it, there’s also this thing connected with the Moog that brought us to do more than just a couple of shows. Having the ability to use this beautiful piece of analogue furniture was sort of the catalyst to make the tour go longer and go to places we haven’t been in a long time – like Ireland – and yeah it’s good to be back.
I’d love for you to discuss a bit more about the synthesizer itself because as you say that must be a real treat to have in your live set-up because normally that might not be possible?
AW: Yeah absolutely, it’s a hugely famous piece of old gear that’s obviously really expensive and fragile and it’s so huge that it’s not really so easy to normally take on tour. We’re really lucky to have this for a really short period of time. I had it in my studio some months ago to test it out and see how we could make it work. We’re going to be playing some new material plus we’re playing some old songs we’ve played throughout the years so it’s nice to breathe some new life into it with some new sounds and in a new way to approach it.
The Moog is a complicated instrument because this one in particular doesn’t have the ability to save pre-sets, so when you get a sound it’ll go away really quick so we’re kind of meeting it halfway. The Moog can very easily turn into some sound that doesn’t sound like anything that we do but there is some inherent beautiful simplicity within the instrument that really fits to what our sound is. It’s been a nice journey to find a way to make it fit inside our world so we’re looking forward to trying that out every night.
Another component too, Adam, is the wonderful string ensemble that audiences would already be familiar with those very special A Winged Victory For The Sullen shows?
AW: Absolutely. The same string players I have been using for a while now, mostly through A Winged Victory For The Sullen. They’ve started playing with Stars of the Lid a few years ago but they live with me, I’m here in Brussels and they’ve become really good friends and they have become a really big part of my live show no matter where I play so it’ll be a real treat to have them along with me as well.
It was cool to see last year Kranky re-issuing some of the Stars of the Lid albums on vinyl, and just a reminder of what special musical documents they very much are.
AW: Yeah, they went out of print. I don’t know if it was really conscious but it seemed a really good time to re-press them on vinyl. It’s been such a long time it’s funny; I figured out that sometimes the best promotion is to do nothing for as long as possible and for some reason we’ve grown in a strangely beautiful organic sense that I never really imagined. For whatever reason those records resonated with people and people care about them so in a weird way this is almost like we’re going back on tour to support those records we released almost twenty years ago [laughs]. It’s nice and as I always say, I’m pretty lucky that people like anything that I do, it’ll be a real pleasure.
I’m curious with the art of a duo – there’s of course you and Brian as Stars of the Lid and alongside Dustin as A Winged Victory – there’s obviously something very special with working or creating together as a two-piece?
AW: Well there’s something two people can do that one person could never do, that’s always the beautiful thing with collaboration. I guess I’ve always been a big believer and big fan of it. I’m lucky to have two guys that I click with in this world.
You already mentioned scores and different things – even more so in the last few years – it’s a wonderful time seeing all these composers with so many projects and varied releases coming out where you’re one prime example. It must be interesting to have all these different projects in your mind at the same time?
AW: I think it’s nice to do different things because you don’t get bored with it whether it’s the different projects or working on something individually like the score project. And obviously as an artist you want to keep busy and not become stagnant so it’s good to have all these different things you can work on.
In terms of the new Stars of the Lid material, can you shed some light on the new material or direction in which you’re going with it?
AW: I don’t really know. We have a lot of new material but I don’t think we have really sat down and decided on what’s actually going to be on the record. In that sense, it’s almost as if we’ve done nothing but we go out on tour sometimes to test out new songs and see what feels like you want to develop more. As far as telling anyone about our new record, there’s actually nothing to report. Everyone seems to think we’re going on tour because we have a new record but we don’t. And everyone also seems to think – it’s a strange thing – that we still live in Texas, I don’t know why that is but they always say the Texan duo, it seems that in the world of the press we will always be existing in Texas.
You already mentioned living in Brussels, you know the studio itself has it been a place that’s been developing over the last few years? I’d love to learn more about the space itself and your set-up?
AW: Yeah I mean I’ve been there for almost twenty years. So, it’s slowly developing – you get new gear and whatnot – it’s basically a really old apartment with really high ceilings and it’s very sympathetic for recording acoustic instruments. Although I do a lot of recording for bigger projects with an orchestra in a studio in Budapest and sometimes I record some strings at another studio in Brussels but I somehow have been able to make it sound like as if you can’t really tell so you can mix and match different things from different places and it feels connected. I’ve always – from the early days – all my earlier recordings were recorded at home because I didn’t have any money, so I’ve always loved recording at home, it’s something that I think I will always do.
The special thing is too with the range of the different material, you know it always has this sort of DIY aesthetic to it too, which is a big compliment too.
AW: Yeah absolutely, it’s all connected. I mean in the beginning, we were so anonymous and we didn’t have any money so we had to do it yourself. So I think it stems from that even though I have a manager now and people who work for me, it still feels strange if I don’t do most of it myself. I feel as if I’m cheating someone if I don’t. My mom told me the other day, she likes to tell me that I remind her of my father because he always had trouble sitting still and so maybe I have adopted a little bit of that from my father. It’s hard to let someone else do something because you just want to do it yourself.
Looking over the Stars of the Lid discography, there’s obviously a string of really amazing records. The length of time it took to make some of these double or even triple records, it must feel like a gradual process when you’re trying to build one piece with so much going on?
AW: I think in the past; songs would develop over a course of years. A two-hour record – you know like a triple album – could take years to make but as I’ve gotten older it seems things happen a lot quicker. I recorded a score this summer – and I’m going over the soundtrack right now to release it – it’s this French film Dustin and I have just composed and it’s over an hour-long and we did all this in about two months. So I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that it’s a little bit easier to let go and not be so precious about everything. I’m not necessarily saying that one is better than the other and I do still slave over things, there are some other music that I’m working on that will take longer and develop. I guess it really depends on the project, you know when you’re working by yourself – for example a soundtrack, it’s a commissioned piece – you have to please other people so you have to find a way to not be precious and let go quicker because there’s deadlines and people have agendas. When you’re working for yourself, you can take all the time in the world.
I always think about when you’re connected to the first [Stars of the Lid] record ‘Music For Nitrous Oxide’, which came out in the early nineties and you had your whole life building up to that one moment, which I was in my early twenties when that came out so it was essentially twenty-three years of my life to release the first record and after that it’s a series of a lot shorter times. So I can see both sides, I do have to say that since I’m professional and that I make a living out of making music, I am relieved in a sense that I can not spend too much time if I need to. I was talking to Jóhann Jóhannsson the other day and he feels as if it doesn’t matter what he has recorded, it never feels finished to him and that must be really stifling at times you know. I like to let go when I can, I think it’s good for you; they’re like these time capsules so you need to let go, otherwise you’ll never finish anything.
It reminds me of Arthur Russell too who always seemed to struggle in order to finish something.
AW: It’s hard to let go sometimes, which I totally understand. You’re making this piece of art and once something doesn’t feel finished it can be very stifling and suffocating, you know it’s better to put it aside and release something that you aren’t happy with because you don’t want to end up feeling like a prostitute or something. What’s the line from that movie, “a wise man once said there’s always a fine line between clever and stupid”, that’s important to remember.
I’ve been listening a lot to your ‘Salero’ soundtrack recently, it’s really amazing and the pieces are just so beautiful. It feels related to other things you have done but it exists in its own realm as well, there’s a separate identity as well.
AW: Yeah maybe, it’s a commissioned piece so I had to work a lot quicker on it but I mean I still think that it sounds like me even though it’s recorded with an orchestra but I’m biased so I don’t know. I don’t know how to feel about it, I’d like to get out of my body and look at myself but sometimes it’s hard to do that. But I’m pleased with it, I’m glad it’s going to come out. I think it’s a beautiful time capsule.
And composing to actual visuals is the process really but in terms of the film then, it feels like a perfect fit where you’re composing music to a vast salt flat?
AW: The first time I saw the images, they were absolutely overwhelming, they’re so beautiful and it’s also kind of strange to see a part of the world that you’ve never seen before. It could maybe look a bit familiar but just have no concept for it, especially the reflections from the sun it looks as if it’s not part of the earth sometimes. It was just so beautiful.
You already mentioned the string orchestra, you must go to that stage after having the compositions pretty much written I imagine but I wonder it must be nice to end up in the same space as the orchestra?
AW: For me, it’s my favourite part because this is the moment where you have this brain fart in your head and you get to let it come out. And just have these other people interpret, it’s going to pretty much sound like you wrote it down, I just absolutely love it. I found this great orchestra – I can’t say they connect with what I’m doing because they are just playing notes – it’s really my favourite part of the whole process because this is where all the happy accidents happen. It sounds like kind of what I was trying to do and you get these other things out of it that you never imagine in a thousand years, you know when you get thirty people in a room to play a drone, it’s absolutely beautiful.
That must be the same feeling for those Stars of the Lid albums where the sessions at the end, you hear all these strings and horns over those drones?
AW: Yeah, it’s different though because that record I mostly recorded in my home studio, not to say that wasn’t a satisfying recording experience but since I’ve been moving more into larger orchestras for the past number of years now, it’s a different thing. I mean there’s one track on the ‘Salero’ record – most of it is recorded with an orchestra except this one track called ‘Bring This Place To Life’ – it’s recorded in my studio with the people who I play with normally and it’s got a totally different sound so the feeling you get when you get people to play on something that you have written – it doesn’t matter if it’s large or small – when it works, it’s a feeling not even of contentment, it’s a sort of cross between accomplishment, contentment, satisfaction and just where you can sit there for a moment and it feels as if the whole world is OK for a few minutes even though the rest of the time it feels as if it’s about to explode. I guess if I meditated on a regular basis, it would be like this moment you come out of meditation and everything is calm. That’s the only way I can describe it, it’s just a feeling of slight contentment.
You have done so much and there’s been so many accomplishments that you should be very proud of, I wonder looking back – and forward too – has there been one philosophy or belief that you always hold onto when you work on the next album, like a musical philosophy so to speak?
AW: Oh my God I definitely do not have but I did read ‘The Oblique Strategies’ by Eno the other day and he has one called ‘Honour your mistakes as a hidden intention’ [laughs] and that one makes complete sense to me [laughs]. I think that’s about as close as I can get to having a theme song.
There’s been several odes to ‘Twin Peaks’ in some of the Stars of the Lid material in terms of song-titles and whatnot, you must have great memories of watching the various David Lynch films and the TV series?
AW: The Lynch connection was more with ‘Twin Peaks’ because when Brian and I were starting out that was around the time when ‘Twin Peaks’ was on TV so we used to sit there and watch it every week on a Thursday night when it would come on TV. It was a great moment in television history for America. I don’t know if we were the biggest David Lynch fans but we absolutely loved that TV show so that’s why we dedicated that song to him.
Lastly, Adam, what’s been your favourite records that you’ve been enjoying lately?
AW: Well my favourite record that I’ve been listening to is Jóhann Jóhannsson’s new one called ‘Orphee’, it’s absolutely beautiful. He hasn’t released a record of his own work in a long time, it’s gorgeous and I would highly recommend checking it out.
For full details of Stars of the Lid’s European tour, which kicks off this Saturday (1st October @ Paradiso, Amsterdam) and includes two Irish dates (Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre and Dublin’s National Concert Hall), see HERE.
Loscil’s Scott Morgan has been responsible for some of the most captivating and stunningly beautiful ambient creations over the past fifteen years. Across a compelling body of work (beginning with the 2001 classic ‘Triple Point’) – the majority of which has been released on the immense Chicago-based imprint Kranky – Vancouver-based Morgan has developed his own unique style of textural rhythms that ceaselessly blur the lines of ambient, techno, drone and modern-classical. The recently released ‘Sea Island’ marks the latest chapter in Loscil’s explorations through sound that lies at the intersect between nature and humanity.
Fractured Air 33: Saccade (A Mixtape by Loscil)
To listen on Mixcloud:
01. Mica Levi ‘Love’ [‘Under the Skin’ OST/Milan]
02. Rafael Anton Irisarri ‘Will Her Heart Burn Anymore_00’ [Room40]
03. Simon Scott ‘Spring Stars’ [Miasmah]
04. Lawrence English ‘Hapless Gatherer’ [Room40]
05. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Strokur’ [Touch]
06. Jon Hopkins ‘Breathe This Air (Asleep version)’ [Domino]
07. A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘ATOMOS VI’ [Erased Tapes, Kranky]
08. Kyle Bobby Dunn ‘Spem in Alium and Her Unable’ [Students Of Decay]
The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.
‘Sea Island’ is available now on Kranky.
Interview with Adam Wiltzie & Dustin O’Halloran.
“I think that a big element in our music is stretching time and using the element of space.”
Words: Mark Carry
A Winged Victory For The Sullen is the collaborative project of like-minded artists and musical luminaries, Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid) and composer Dustin O’Halloran. Last year marked the highly anticipated return of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s stunningly beautiful and deeply affecting neo-classical based compositions in the form of the duo’s sophomore effort, ‘Atomos’. First glimpses of the pair’s new material – and follow-up to the mesmerizing eponymous debut, released in 2011 – was beautifully captured in ‘Atomos VII’ EP; comprising two original compositions recorded in the summer of 2013 in Brussels, Berlin and Reykjavik. This stunning release also featured Icelandic composer Ben Frost’s rework – appropriately dubbed ‘Greenhouse Re-Interpretation’ – of ‘Atomos VI’. What remains vividly present on the pair’s newest masterwork of ‘Atomos’ is the infinite beauty and unlimited emotion that pours from the intricately layered compositions of piano, strings, drone sounds and modular synthesizers. A haven of celestial sounds and heart-wrenching emotion unfolds with each and every beguiling piano tone and ambient pulse of heart-wrenching strings. As ever, the gifted duo explore new possibilities through sound with results nothing short of staggering.
Wayne McGregor, founder of Random Dance Company and resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet, approached Adam and Dustin to see if they could write the score for his new oeuvre as part of the Random Dance Company. The duo were given complete artistic freedom and would record more than sixty minutes of music over a four-month period during the summer of 2013 with the assistance of their long-term sound engineer Francesco Donadello. In contrast to the group’s debut full-length, ‘Atomos’ was sculpted in a very short time-period, resulting in a broadened sonic palette containing elements of electronics, harp and synthesizers. In the words of Adam Wiltzie: “We tried to balance the discordance between being creative, and fulfilling our duties for a commissioned soundtrack with a very strict deadline, and all the while staying true to our collective melancholy.”
For upcoming European/US tour dates click HERE.
‘Atomos’ is out now on Erased Tapes (Europe) and Kranky (USA).
Interview with Adam Wiltzie & Dustin O’Halloran.
It’s lovely to speak to you about your incredible and very special music. Congratulations on the latest album ‘Atomos’, it’s such an amazing album. The one thing that really striked me initially is the broadened sonic palette where there is new textures and nuances in the music itself. I’d love for you to discuss the different ideas and elements you had envisioned for the album from the outset?
Adam Wiltzie: Yeah I mean I don’t know if there was a really grand scheme because we had such a limited time. I mean the process leading up to it was a little bit slow but once we got everything agreed contractually, we really had four months to do the whole score which is not a lot of time to do anything. So we weren’t consciously thinking this to be totally different from our first record because Wayne [McGregor] approached us because he loved the first record, that’s what brought him to us. But we had a limited amount of time so we were just coming up with ideas and writing so we went into some new keyboard sounds and I think if anything it wasn’t so conscious, it just happened very naturally and in a really quick way. We didn’t have time to second guess ourselves either: we would throw a palette of sound up and start writing and go with it. And you know, it was really as simple as that.
Dustin O’Halloran: Also, I think because Adam and I have our own projects -we’ve only had one record – we were really happy with that first record and you know, we don’t want to repeat ourselves; it was good timing that we had this sort of third influence in the group because I think it helped us understand what are the limits of our sound and where can we grow. The first record in some ways came really easily to us because it was very natural to what we both do so I think that it was nice to see where we can expand in our own palettes.
As you just mentioned there, it must be a lovely feeling to be thinking back on the making of the music in the sense that it took relatively so quickly. It must be this inspiration that you get so easily and quickly when you are both together.
AW: It’s definitely satisfying: satisfying in different ways for each record. I think the satisfaction was different with ‘Atomos‘ – and maybe for Dustin it’s the same – we were working on it and didn’t have much time so it wasn’t until we actually performed live that we realized, oh this actually is a really nice record. We were just trying to finish this score that would work for this dance piece where we were thinking more about Wayne and what he needed, obviously we didn’t want it to sound bad. It wasn’t until we were there, really playing it live where we realized, oh this sounds like a record and now it’s even more satisfying for me that the record really sits on its own completely separate from it: it can sit completely separate from the dance because I think most people that listen to it have never seen the dance and maybe never will see the dance. So it’s satisfying because it’s a beautiful thing that exists on its own.
Exactly and I think that’s a true testament to the music, you know with the different contexts. I would love to see the dance but I haven’t but with the music itself there is such a visual element of movement as you’re listening it feels like you are witnessing it even though on a physical level you’re not.
DO’H: I think the one nice thing about working with dance is that music really comes first so you have a lot of space and time to work with where other collaborations are not as free in the sense of the time-lines. But I think that a big element in our music is stretching time and using the element of space. In film it’s much harder because you’re dealing with stories and edits. It was nice because we were really able to draw out passages and Wayne really gave us a lot of freedom in that sense; he didn’t really try to constrict that way we work.
I love too how the album itself really feels like a number of movements but there is so much variation- there is so many different elements happening and different layers – so you can always hear something new from the music.
AW: Oh, thank you. That’s what we were hoping.
I remember Christina Vantzou saying how the process of composing was both a maddening and meditative experience. What would you feel?
DO’H: I think it depends on how you work but I think the moments that were difficult were more just based on the time. Our first record when we had all time that we needed and we took all the time we needed, it never felt stressful in any way and was really a great pleasure. Punching all that in a much shorter period of time had its challenges but I think if you let it come it comes to you at some point.
I’d be curious to know if you’re influenced particularly by Steve Reich and his gradual music philosophy?
AW: Not really. We were asked this question I think by a woman in Australia – someone recently asked us – I mean obviously I’ve known about Steve Reich but I never really listened to him; he was never much of an influence me; I was always much more into Eno- that was more of my influences for minimalism when I was young but he makes beautiful music, he’s a super-friendly guy but I never really had a signature emotional moment with Steve’s music. But saying that, art is strangely subjective in ways that I’m telling you this and you’re probably saying ‘this guy is totally fooled, he must have listened to Reich‘ you know, it seems so obvious but that’s the funny thing, at this point in history maybe I’m influenced by someone else who was influenced by him maybe; it’s all so cross-pollinating at this point it’s hard to tell where your musical history comes from.
DO’H: And you know also there is an artist named Hans Otte who was working with a lot of similar ideas that Steve Reich worked with later but he was doing it I think like in the 60’s so I think a lot of people were dealing with similar ideas. I mean it’s the same for me I wouldn’t say that was an obvious influence for me as well.
I’d be curious was there a certain Brian Eno record that triggered your love for his music?
AW: Oh I mean there is so many of them. His pop records, ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’, ‘Another Green World’, ‘Before and After Science’ and his ambient records obviously, I love ‘Discreet Music‘ and ‘Thursday Afternoon’, there are so many. Even some Roxy Music I can get into.
When you find yourself in the live setting and you have the wonderful orchestra and everything with you, it must be a real thrill for you just going on tour and witnessing obviously the music you have made in this live context?
AW: Yeah it’s been great. We have a really great set of string players that worked with us on the record and we’ve been playing with for a while now. We’re still playing the music from the piece but it has developed in a way because we’ve been playing it so much together, we really feel more like a band now so it’s been really rewarding and great to really bond and connect with string players we’ve had so we feel really lucky.
DO’H: Instead of working with them on our first record when we had the new material it was the first time that we were able to bring string players in and that were more invested than just being session players; they really understood how we were working and they recorded all the string parts with us. It was nice because we were able to work with them on how to make it better and usually with string players you get that sort of personal investment so it was really nice to feel like we could all make it better and craft it together and it really helped make these pieces work.
I wonder what kind of plans and ideas you may have for your next projects?
DO’H: Well I think Adam’s going to be working on some of his music and I’m going to be working on some of my own music now.
AW: Yeah we’re going to take a little break and work on our own things for a little while. We’ll be back, we’ll do it again- don’t you worry.
In terms of music or film, was there something you’ve been obsessed with in recent months?
DO’H: Well recently I was in Los Angeles and I saw the composer Mica Levi and she had a twenty-piece ensemble and she performed the score for ‘Under The Skin‘. Actually when I saw the film I thought the music was good but when I saw it live and saw how she was creating her sound live, it was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve seen for a really long time and I really appreciated how she created all of the sounds.
AW: What was she playing?
DO’H: She was conducting and she had the Wordless Orchestra playing and they were great. She’s just dealing with more textures than melodic lines and there was a few melodic parts but the way she creates them and doubles the instruments, it was definitely like one of the most interesting things I have seen in a long time, it was pretty cool.
What about you Adam?
AW: I’m really into gardening at the moment. Although I still love music and film and art, I’ve really just become obsessed with plants lately; they seem to speak to me more loudly than anything else.
That sounds cool because I’m sure you get enough inspiration from the world outside as much as anything else.
DO’H: I think you always have to give yourself a break from music sometimes, it’s always seeking influence within music itself is like a snake eating its own tail and sometimes you just need to step away and you know, spend time in the ocean, garden or just listen to other sounds and just get outside this world of music. And I think that’s what brings fresh ideas too, you need to just step out of it, go to a museum and see art, just read [laughs] and just step away from it.
Especially when you have so much stuff always hapening – even away from A Winged Victory – as your work builds up there’s a sort of challenge to create something new. Actually it reminds me of a recent interview with Hauschka where Volker explained how he needs to “reset his mind” and having a blank canvas to start from.
AW: I mean Volker is so good at that. He’s also really good at improvisation which I struggle with a bit, I don’t trust myself enough, I don’t think. He’s very inspiring especially his tour he’s been doing lately. I don’t know if you’ve seen it? I mean it’s super beautiful where he’s going lately and I love his recent live set. It’s pretty special.
For upcoming European/US tour dates click HERE.
‘Atomos’ is out now on Erased Tapes (Europe) and Kranky (USA).