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Contemporary dance may not be the first thing which comes to mind when you hear the music of A Winged Victory for the Sullen. The ambient classical ensemble formed by Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) and Dustin O'Halloran created a beautiful, melancholic mix of low-end piano, strings and drone for their self-titled debut album, so perhaps it comes as a surprise that this follow-up, Atomos, was written for a new work of contemporary dance at the request of Wayne McGregor, founder of the radical Random Dance company.

The story goes that, as McGregor was working on a new piece with his core group of dancers, he chose to play AWVFTS's album repeatedly and, after observing his group's reaction to the music, he approached the duo with a view to writing the score for his next show.

It is that score - performed at Sadler's Wells last Autumn and teased earlier this year with the release of the Atomos VII EP - which makes up this new album.

Atomos consists of ten pieces which seem to flow naturally on from the duo's debut. That distinctive mix of drones and beautiful string arrangements are still present, though the link with McGregor and his passion for technological advances has led them to tiptoe into electronica territory now and then. Whereas Winged Victory (and to an extent Stars of the Lid) like to diffuse the whiff of pretension that sometimes troubles this sort of music with some bizarre song titles (for example, the opening track on their debut was entitled 'We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced, For the Earth had Circled the Sun Yet Another Year'), this time around the pieces are numbered from I - XII, and the four parts which they are subdivided into are more like movements within a symphony than sides of a vinyl record. This album is firmly with the modern classical genre and has little to do with the likes of post-rock and electronica.

As you might expect the titles are fairly irrelevant and Atomos works superbly as a 62-minute piece. It is by turns elegiac, sombre and occasionally melancholic, but it isn't as downbeat as you might think as the sheer beauty and the progression within their sound gives it a kind of drive that is both surprising and uplifting. 'Atomos I' begins with three minutes of drone before the strings build up into a fluid swirling drift to it whilst 'Atmos II' and 'III' focus more on the piano as a central instrument.

The first break in the flow comes with 'Atomos V' (oddly there is no IV) which starts cold with the first hint of electronica - a gently pulsing keyboard which gives way to a beautifully elongated note played by the string section. This development continues on 'VI' when it starts to turn into something other than chamber music, as the piano is delayed and creates a gentle rhythm as a backdrop, and it moves into 'Atomos VII' which is a lovely mood piece where the strings reassert themselves.

'Atomos VIII' has a great shifting pulse and an urgent almost uptempo arrangement, yet 'Atomos IX' contrasts beautifully with it by setting a pretty piano melody against a solid string drone and some distant garbled voices like a lost radio transmission. More voices and electronics emerge and recede on 'Atomos X' as sheets of noise are mixed with the strings.

'Atomos XI' begins as a simple yet pretty piano piece, which creeps into the closing track 'Atomos XII' which fittingly ends where the album began, as it revisits that lovely ambient drone and beautiful minimal melody line.

Apparently conceived and performed over a relatively short time span, Atomos is a very powerful work and one which could well bring modern classical music to the attention of people with only a passing interest in it, in much the same way as Philip Glass and Steve Reich have done. It's a beautiful record which well worth your attention.

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