A Winged Victory For The Sullen perform for the first time in Liverpool and Getintothis’ Simon Kirk was there to ride the heavens with them.
While Friday nights are usually spent inhabiting bars down Seel Street and taking in some form of live music, tonight is more of a quaint, timid affair.
We’re in South Liverpool tonight, or more specifically in the milieu of the Ullet Road Unitarian Church where A Winged Victory For The Sullen are set to perform their first show in the city.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen provide music that you either like or you don’t.
Some fully immerse themselves in the essence of their neo-classical brand of ambient music while for others, well, it just doesn’t hold water. Too much noodling, not enough panache.
Each to their own. No judgement here.
Suffice to say that we are very much in the former category, though.
The Undivided Five washes over the listener like waves lapping up to shore. It gently meanders, the soundscapes repetitious in an attempt to penetrate and find that summit where the perfect note inhabits.
With The Undivided Five, A Winged Victory For The Sullen don’t exactly venture down new paths, however the niche they have sculptured since their existence in modernising classical music still has them solely occupying previously uncultivated territories.
As we make our way from the front room to where the band are set to perform in the Ullet Road Unitarian Church, a building deeply etched in Liverpool’s history, there’s a feeling that we are on the verge of something special tonight.
— James Travis (@DotsAndLoopsMcr) March 6, 2020
On entering, the stage is filled with a demonic red backdrop. It’s like this for twenty minutes until support act Daniel Wohl arrives onstage, then the lighting suddenly softens and transforms into an eerie purple glaze.
The space so quiet, the audience ever attentive.
The French born Los Angeles-based Wohl performs several compositions from his 2019 album, État.
Wohl‘s brand of throbbing drones and defiant ambience starts the night off very well indeed.
Certain passages feel like there’s a brief dalliance with tech-house and the deconstruction of post-punk that is quickly transcended by a harsh ambience. There are echoes of the defragmented sounds of Ben Frost and the flanged sounds of Fennesz.
It’s a worthy performance and a lovely gateway for the main event.
The harsh red backdrop onstage returns as AWVTS enter the stage. O’Halloran and Wiltzie are accompanied by five additional members who look set to unveil the beautiful noise in this equally beautiful setting.
It starts with The Undivided Five opener, Our Lord Debussy – a composition that projects whirring rich orchestral shades of sound.
The tear jerking requiem that is Sullen Sonata follows, an offering of deeply dramatic strings and flutters of drone that ripple from the stage and wash over the crowd.
— Steve Williams (@stevew0601) March 7, 2020
From here, the set largely comprises of material from 2014’s Atomos. The album material showcases AWVFTS‘ far reaching virtuosity even more so when performed live, as they chisel out new worlds with gorgeous slow-motion arrangements that project an ambient glow.
Not just that, there are thunderous weights of drone, thinly barbed projections of strings, dramatic build-ups and elusive silhouettes of sound.
It’s a surprise that so much from Atomos is performed, and sometimes things stray too far, but on the whole it’s understandable. This is world building music in a sense and with it comes peaks and troughs.
Aqualung, Motherfucker and A Minor Fifth Is Made of Phantoms prove to be a nice dovetail of cinematic grandeur. Both highlights from The Undivided Five, despite the stunning Adios, Florida being a glaring omission from the set.
The night ends with the seven piece showing a modest appreciation to the audience.
— John Davey (@sjohndavey) March 7, 2020
Humbled virtuosos almost embarrassed to receive the plaudits demonstrated by fervent onlookers.
The applause is deserved, though. Undoubtedly.
Ambient, neo-classical…call it what you want, but tonight it feels like A Winged Victory For The Sullen have carved out music for a parallel universe.
A crescendo from the heavens and, right now, it feels like the perfect place to be.
Photos by Getintothis’ Billy Vitch.