Atomos will see the return of A Winged Victory For The Sullen this Autumn. Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie and Berlin’s pianist / composer Dustin O’ Halloran have been sorely missed. The duo’s sublime, cool guitar drones soar high above the music and envelop the listener ever more with sweet piano passages that trickle with emotion and sensitivity. Atomos VII is a beautiful continuation on from their 2011, self-titled debut, which is now widely considered a modern classic. In just the space of one record, AWVFTS shot to fame, critical acclaim and international recognition. So, great things are expected when their second studio album drops later in the year. This EP is a reminder, if one was really necessary, of the duo’s highly refined musicianship, continuing on from the kind of music we fell in love with three years ago.
Atomos is the score for choreographer Wayne McGregor’s long form dance piece of the same name, but if this three track EP offers a clue as to their future musical direction, not much has changed. Their trademark sound is here in all its glory, and it’s instantly recognisable. Light, airy drones swirl around the deeper, fog shrouded breath of modern composition. Strings swell in unison one note at a time, shooting upwards before they fall. The dynamics rise, and the listener awaits something spectacular; that beautifully timed release. The duo have taken their sound and sent it higher, with well-crafted, touching compositions that somehow feel heavier, bolder and older in sound. Their string sections blaze as if on fire. A drone eats away at the strings with its acidic atmosphere, which in turn burns away their timbre, but they rise once again. A staccato bass darts around the music, as if it were tuned into a gently choreographed dance routine.
‘Minuet For A Cheap Piano Number One’ begins softly, but it soon turns darker. The soft skinned piano diverts the listener from the guitar’s drone, preferring instead to wrap the listener up in its intimate, warm cocoon. It’s intimacy is solely down to the piano, which, while on its own, never feels alone. It doesn’t suffer from the misery of loneliness, which is, sadly, a reality for many – in particular the elderly. As in life, so in music, for the piano is an elderly instrument. The notes twinkle as they are played, a sad sonata viewed through pale eyes. It’s an introspective interlude.
Ben Frost helps out on the coda; the slightly abrasive static bears his fingerprints, and its electronic discharge washes over the chords like rain. It leaves the reverb-wet strings muddy in their tone, and they cry out in desperation. Modern classical music can colour itself in chrome, but Wiltzie’s drones lift the music up and give it an ambient tint; they increase the intensity already brought about by the sweeping strings.
AWVFTS elevate their standards once again – their music goes beyond what we normally associate modern classical composition to be, crafting a spellbinding ambient affair that glistens with its string-led soul. Atomos lends their music to the perfect stage – play some open chords and rejoice!