Iris (A Winged Victory for the Sullen) review

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Supergroup certainly falls into the lexicon of words that have been beat to death by overzealous music journalists praising their favorite collaborative efforts, so it’s uncomfortable to use as a descriptive, but here we are.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen is an exquisite unity of two previously established electronic music greats—Dustin O’Halloran (who was just nominated for an Oscar for his soundtrack to Garth Davis’ film “Lion”, as well as composing the score and theme song to Amazon’s TV show “Transparent”), and Adam Wiltzie, best known for the beloved ambient band Stars of the Lid from Austin Texas. Wiltzie also won a Golden Globe a few years back for collaborating on the soundtrack to the film “The Theory of Everything” with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s first two records—their self-titled debut and sophomore album “ATOMOS” were both released on Erased Tapes Records and universally praised for their mellifluous drone ambiance paired with a very minimal classicist sound. Both men brought their unique style of ambient music to the project and both records are super rewarding to listen to.

As is their new album, “Iris” a soundtrack to the film of the same name by French director Jalil Lespert. The film, a modest drama-mystery does not really do anything notably exciting or noteworthy—other than this soundtrack.

Wiltzie and O’Halloran bring a subtle and foreboding score, with the accompaniment of a 40-piece orchestra in Budapest, and the grandiose lavishness does shine at times, though—as is to be expected from two career minimalists—it is the subtle sects between these movements that really stand out on re-listens. Some of these remarkable moments are best noticed on tracks like “Galerie” and “Normandie”.

There is something to be said for the power of the subtly. When composing film score, a person is tempted to go for the vast sound—like John Williams or Hans Zimmer—but really, perhaps the most atmospherically enhancing soundtracks are the ones that add more to their visual counterparts by not being over-the-top. Like the “Stranger Things” soundtrack, or Shane Carruth’s soundtrack to his film “Upstream Colour”.

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