Adam Wiltzie’s work in Stars of the Lid, The Dead Texan and Sparklehorse are among many natural antecedents to A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Wiltzie’s collaboration with Dustin O’Halloran; but it is perhaps an acute sense of community and loss that drives him most, writes SIOBHAN KANE
A Winged Victory for the Sullen released their self-titled record in 2011. A statement of hard wrought poetry, it mingles classical and ambient conceits, swirling instrumentation and droneand it emerged over some years, after Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran met in Italy in 2007, at a Sparklehorse concert.
“I remember the night quite vividly,” says Wiltzie. “We mostly had conversations revolving around passport cache issues and whiskey, which I suppose still come up quite often. “I remember the promoter of the concert in Italy. A lot of bands had disaster stories. He slammed the car door on the hand of [Mark] Linkous,andit swelled uplike a grapefruit.We almost couldn’t play. And it was on the heels of Mark falling in the bathroom in Torino – he had completely smashed his face in. He seemingly had his foot halfway out the door at all times, it was a constant struggle keeping himalive, but ironically one of the best times of my life.”
Excited by their combined musical influences and differences, O’Halloran and Wiltzie set about making a record, with physical space becoming an important part of the process. “It was decided that we would compose and record in places we do not normally work. To do it the old-fashioned way, or at least how it used to be.The digital recording age has created a climate of laziness for collaborations – we purposely defied the practices of ‘file sharing’ and ‘digital online transfer’, and encouraged the art of ‘internal whiskey sharing’ and ‘Italian gastronomical stomach transfer’, it was extremely liberating.”
Recording took place in places such as the renowned Grunewald Church in Berlin, a 17th century villa in northern Italy, and East Berlin DDR radio studios, with special pianos, and collaborators such as violinist Peter Broderick and cellist Hildur Gudnadóttir.
“It was a combination of space and the piano, and ultimately it was about finding the right piano sound that could fit with all the layers of the guitar wash – the Bösendorfer, and later in the recording, an Italian model called a Fazioli, it was like finding the perfect colour to match our knitted sweaters.The main evolution has been our ability to let the songs evolve with the addition of different voices. We have been playing shows with large orchestras, and it has been very satisfying for both of us.”
While there is a looseness to their creativity, there is also a belief in serendipity, with the late Mark Linkous as a kind of patron saint. Requiem for the Static King Part One is a raw and moving elegy to Wiltzie’s great friend, with the glowing, devastating strings reflecting Linkous’s wandering spirit. “There is a lot of Linkous on the record, as I am a very sentimental person. If it was not for Mark, I never would have met Dustin, and AWVFTS never would have happened. He died six months afterwestarted the recording, and after I returned from his funeral I was really down. The next timewegot together, we came up with Part One of his Requiem–he deserved nothing less.The man was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, and my life will never be the same without him.”
The record must have made Wiltzie think about his own journey, a musical contribution that is intelligent and eclectic, inspired as much by Arvo Pärt, as by Talk Talk. “Looking back and finding some kind of reverence in what I have created over the past 20 years is something I will never be comfortable with. I strongly feel that success for so many artists has resulted in a lack of struggle to keep creating something that is truly worthy of listening.