I kind of get the feeling that Wiltzie and O’Hallron didn’t even try on Atomos. So why is it still one of the year’s best albums?
Even before Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran teamed up for A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s debut album three years ago, I think anyone familiar with both of their work knew this was going to be a sure thing. Most of us hoped for Stars of the Lid with more of a orchestral emphasis — “orchestral ambient,” if you will — and that’s exactly what we got. Atomos, crafted in a variety of European cities over the span of four months for choreographer Wayne McGregor, ups the ante with new-found electronics, harp, and synthesizers. The results? Stunning, as always.
Winged Victory is really setting the standard today for “pretty indie classical music.” Sure, there is some competition from Olafur Arnalds, Greg Haines, Balmorhea, etc, but Wiltzie and O’Halloran is a dynamic duo like no other. Atomos, true to form, dazzles over its hour run length and has no shortage of highlights. The electronics start to push themselves into the limelight on “Atomos V” and “Atomos VI” (“Atomos IV” seems to have missed the cut, mysteriously), the latter of which gets very Frahm-ian with modulated notes. “Atomos VII” offers up one of the purer classical pieces before we’re dragged back into the experimental with “Atomos VIII” and “Atomos X.” The electronic bent is an interesting addition — one that is very modern in the current musical landscape and one that is very befitting to the music created by Wiltzie and O’Halloran. With such subtlety ruling the kingdom here, small changes make big waves.
Where the future will take AWVFTS is anyone’s guess. Wiltzie and O’Halloran are two immensely talented musicians with really nothing left to prove. The sky is the limit in terms of resources, creativity, and desire. We should just be thankful that they’re proving to be more productive than Stars of the Lid.