TP Mix #136 – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

With an extensive background in music production, ambient and electronic duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen have come a long way. Comprised of friends Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie, the composers shared their album The Undivided Five which was released via Ninja Tune and praised by NPR upon its release. Last year saw the duo release their album Invisible Cities, which is an adaptation of the theatre production soundtrack they created for Leo Warner. We are thrilled to share a richly ambient and ethereal mix from the duo. Although the hustle and bustle of a new week can add additional mental strain to one, listening to this mix and mediating on its colourful pattern, one should feel like they can take a breath.

Enjoy this exclusive mix below:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts? 

DOH: Not sure what else I would do honestly, as being some sort of artist was really the only thing that ever called to me. 

ABW: I wanted to be a professional tennis player, but I had a knee injury at 15, so I happened to be into this world of art, not knowing I could make a living off of it. I probably am a little bit lucky in that regard.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

DOH: There are always a few things floating around… Sometimes it’s a sound that sparks a direction, but other times it’s a specific idea we want to work with. Our process is always a bit of mystery as we go back and forth and usually do a lot of sound processing, so where we start and end up can be quite different.

ABW: The sound

Does your material feature any collaborations? 

DOH: We have always had some collaborators in the mix: Hildur Guðnadóttir,  Skúli Sverrisson, Ben Frost, Hugo Barone, Echo Collective. As well as  Francesco Donadello who introduced us has been our longest and most frequent collaborator- mixing and helping us record most of our records.

What’s on your current playlist? 

DOH: There are always a few pillars that stay in my rotation, lately I’ve been coming back to some ’60s  era jazz on vinyl lately which is sort of cleansing the pallet after working on music all day… Miles, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery. Adam gave me an Eddie Chacon record that we both really like and it sort of became the pandemic record for me. 

ABW: Vincenzo Tempera, Trisome 21, Jack Nitzche to name a few….

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage. 

DOH:  We are more in our own world on stage and never really see much, but on our last tour Adam created a pretty epic light design with a great light designer from Belgium and all of the light came out facing the audience…It was the first time we could really see them.  A lot of closed eyes and hypnotized looks.

ABW: Chemistry is a slippery slope. I usually block the audience out as much as possible.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound? 

DOH: Trying to make as many mistakes that come out beautiful. 

ABW: I make my own samples, which is mostly what you hear on the recordings. When I am playing live many times after the show, people come up and ask what kind of keyboard I am using, when in fact it is just a midi controller triggering the samples I had created.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

DOH: Drink a coffee, turn some knobs, have another coffee, move to the piano, put everything through a tape echo and re-amp it in a 15-century church. Have a good dinner and a grappa.

ABW: As I recall, we all have different furrows to plough. So a day in the studio is not necessarily working on a particular piece of music, as for many a moon I have been creating my own samples, so I spend a lot of time messing about with an old keyboard or pedal I forgot about & just creating an octave patch of sounds. My research continues.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”? 

ABW: Yes, making this playlist for example….

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set? 

ABW: A photo of a French Poodle that was my pet when I was 5 years old.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

ABW: Mabe Fratti.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

ABW: I am not completely convinced of its accuracy but I live in the middle of nowhere in Flanders, so a good 45-minute walk in the countryside almost always opens my mind up.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression. 

DOH:  Lots of vintage synths, tape machines, tape echos, and pianos with extremely low frequencies. We try to accomplish most of the sound-shaping in an analogue way and with the last record, we got deep into re-amping sounds. 

ABW: Gear is pretty irrelevant for me, you could give the 5 people the same pedal & they would all make a completely different sound. That being said, I like cheap reverb, so I would recommend the Alesis Midiverb 4.

Any side projects you’re working on? 

DOH:  I’ve taken some time to work on my solo stuff and released my first record on Deutsche Grammophon this last year, as well as a few scoring projects. Mostly I just try to find time to practice piano!

 ABW: New Stars of the Lid record is back on the grill…

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

DOH: It’s always building on what you know works and trying to throw yourself into new things. AWVFTS has always been about exploring new ground for me and trying to find a sound or an idea that pushes us into new territory.

ABW: I learned that releasing too much music can be counter-productive, and to remember that not all progress is linear.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

DOH:  We always have something bubbling in the studios, but good things take time. We released two records with very little breaks in-between, so hopefully, the folks can wait for more music. We did try our hand at a little podcast the year which is coming out slowly, it was more work than we thought, but we got to have some interesting conversations with some artists we love- Sharon Van Etten, Tom Broughton and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith …We have released two with more to be released soon.

ABW: In my gruesome passive-aggressive way, probably either nothing or 3 releases depending on a myriad of situations.

Famous last words?

DOH: ‘Amaro come la vita’

ABW: Take the work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.


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