With so little room for variation and such an over-saturation in both the field of 'ambient' music and commentary on it any review of an album situated in the genre can seem to be a retread and offer little more than stereotypical adjectives (read: 'heavenly', 'spacy', 'glistening') and entirely obvious comparisons to the scenes' two godfathers of both the past and present; Eno and Stars Of The Lid. That 'A Winged Victory For The Sullen' is the new hub of Stars Of The Lid founding member Adam Wiltzie doesn't offer much promise of something fresh, but this self-titled debut, a collaboration with respected composer Dustin O'Halloran, is a thoroughly wonderful full-length.
There is a touch of the work of Ryuchi Sakamoto across the seven tracks of 'A Winged Victory For The Sullen', as there was in this years other stand-out ambient full-length, Kashiwa Daisuke's '88'. Sakamoto's unmissable collaborations with Christian Fennesz are probably the closest sonic comparisons to the album available, composed as they are with the same restrained, but driving, piano soliloquies and backgrounds of hushed electronics and strings.
There is also the understated influence of Peter Broderick, a kingpin of the Erased Tapes label, which has become the go-to label for instrumental experimental music which sits on the right side of 'listenable' to be enjoyable at face value, who provides wisps of violin throughout the album. Throughout it is much more 'full', in relative terms, than any of Stars Of The Lid's work, with very little dead space between the achingly slow drones that create a background haze.
Like Hammock's 'Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow' before it, 'A Winged Victory For The Sullen' at times feels less like an 'ambient' record than a beautifully composed opus with the edges filed away, wrought with emotion that belies its lack of vocals, percussion and anything else you may choose to mention. It is not merely background music, as music of a similar ilk is sometimes lazily and sometimes correctly dismissed, but music to get lost in. Surely, all the typical adjectives apply, but when an album is as expertly crafted as this the descriptions themselves are far more redundant than the genre.