Review Summary: A sign of things to come
There's a chance you may be familiar with the choreographer Wayne McGregor: his most infamous work should still be burned into your retina as a flutter-eyed Thom Yorke twitching around in the video for Radiohead's "Lotus Flower." More positively, he'd hopefully be best known as one half of a whole string of fantastic collaborations. The most recent of these arrived last year as Ben Frost's FAR
and, even without seeing McGregor's accompanying dance, ears are all you need to attest to the most soul-tearingly punishing album Frost's ever put his name to.
McGregor reached out to A Winged Victory after using music from their debut to warm up his dancers and noticing how dramatically it affected them. They were to create over 60 minutes of music to accompany a long-form dance in four months: with McGregor passing on photographs and ideas with the intent of influencing instead of dictating. The result is a whole new LP, though for now we make do with a single, a b-side and a Ben Frost-involved reinterpretation to assure us the whole thing is going to be bloody lovely.
For all talk of a newly dark and cold direction (keeping in mind they started off with pieces about suicide), "Atomos VII" kicks off on very familiar ground. A bubble of clear drones is steadily increased by shy, string pulses before bursting out with a dramatic swell of orchestration. The piece diverts from the old path by choosing to linger afterwards, letting a more concrete cello take over before relaxing to a post-coital sigh. "Minuet for a Cheap Piano One" -previously so elusive- follows on with careful piano to gently nudge us toward sleep. The minuet could be a dance partner were it not so weightless: instead it sounds like a small white feather twirling around with the wind.
If most of this sounds slightly old hat, the "Greenhouse Reinterpretation" is a separate beast entirely. Ben Frost's characteristically abrasive, emotional guitar drones offer a stark contrast to A Winged Victory's pleasant aesthetic, and the juxtaposition adds a sense of desperation to the otherwise more straightforward piece. While an orchestra quietly hums, Frost's drones jump around uncertainly, and far from being uncomfortable it makes for a sound dark and cold enough to justify the group's original promise.
By announcing a new album for the near future, A Winged Victory will leave fans wanting more with an EP clocking in at less than 25 minutes. However, there's plenty of quality to keep us ticking over and, although it might have taken a little bit of Ben Frost-shaped help, it's clear the duo are eager to peep out of the ambient/classical sound they must now be so comfortable in. Whether they pursue this or not, fingers crossed to whether A Winged Victory created a whole LP with the same sense of wonder which make their debut so successful.