Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran, as A Winged Victory for the Sullen, create majestic instrumental moments of musical introspection that elevate your soul. O’Halloran has made a name for himself as a composer of soundtracks, whilst Wiltzie is (amongst other things) a member of ambient neo-classical drone masters Stars of the Lid. Their output under the moniker of A Winged Victory for the Sullen does not step too far out of the bounds of their other work, though there is a directness which O’Halloran brings to the project and a detail of atmospherics from Wiltzie that work well in tandem to produce a sound which shows a reliance on the particular talents of each musician.

As perfect as their work is for soundtracks, their 2016 album which scored the film Iris was disappointing and lacked a sense of the wandering beauty that is central to their best work. When driven by their own vision they are almost peerless; when having to marry up with someone else’s they seem awkwardly compromised. The Undivided Five, however, is a reassuringly brilliant record for anyone worried that the duo had lost their way a little. It is heart achingly beautiful; solemn without being depressive, restrained without being dull.

‘Our Lord Debussy’ opens the album in the most delicate, refined way. The deep swelling strings towards the end of the track are soporific, a tonal thread which permeates the album as a whole. The drowsy feeling of the production work will no doubt raise accusations of being boring from some people (you know, those who say they ‘like’ music but just don’t ‘get’ music) and we should all feel sorry for those who can’t see the genuine beauty in things. Music evokes feelings, arouses aspects of our being we do not casually toy with as we have been conditioned to project more superficial elements of ourselves whilst anything deeper and more personal is seen as causing discomfort in others We are not used to honesty, to the simple things in life of just ‘being’ when we are all too busy ‘doing’. This is why the work of A Winged Victory for the Sullen is so important as it is central to a provocation of those deep-seated and hidden emotions which we are told serve no purpose. Their music provides an awakening of the soul, an inherent connection between sound and senses.

It is almost impossible to listen to this album and not conjure up imagined scenes from television shows or films. ‘Aqualung, Motherfucker’ is not only the best named song of the year, but is a powerful lesson in musical restraint and how chords can develop narrative ideas in the listener. It evokes the moment in a film when the main character comes to a sudden and horrific realisation, whilst the brightness of ‘The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair’ is a counterpart to this, eliciting the emotional weight of a new dawn and a sense of hopefulness we could all do with right about now.

The nine tracks that make up The Undivided Five all plough the same musical path, creating a cohesive body of work rather than a homogenised one. Beneath the upper layers of piano or strings in the mix, however, there are subtle noises that are almost imperceptible yet create an unsettling feeling, a sense of disquiet in amongst the beauty which is front and centre. Like the opening sequence in David Lynch’s masterful Blue Velvet, where the camera moves from the uncannily picturesque small town America to the relative brutality of the squirming insects in the lawn, we are also being guided towards the unseen depths. Behind the awe of life lies the realisation of death and decay.

The Undivided Five is slow, meandering and intelligent. It almost pays no heed to the listener, offering little by way of hooks or the dynamism which is the focal point of the sounds sold as commodities. A Winged Victory for the Sullen produce breath-taking works of sumptuous beauty which will no doubt bore the shit out of those who are not equipped with the patience, cultural competence and time to delve into the work properly. That sounds wildly elitist but so be it. You can’t please everybody.