A Winged Victory for the Sullen: The Undivided Five review – threads between life and death never sounded so beautiful

Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran deliver a stunning work influenced by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint

The Undivided Five
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Artist: A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Genre: Ambient
Label: Ninja Tune

Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O'Halloran's fifth record takes inspiration from intriguing Swedish artist Hilma af Klint – "an invisible hand guiding things", they say – with her sense of ritual, higher powers, and the number 5. The duo centred their writing on the harmonic perfect fifth, something A Minor Fifth Is Made Of Phantoms references.

The compositions linger on details and micro-level sound, yet are also expansive – The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair is rich and textured; using vintage synthesizers and a string ensemble, it frames the atmosphere of the record, tying the thread between life and death, influenced by their friend Jóhann Jóhannsson’s untimely passing, and the birth of O’Halloran’s first child.

Our Lord Debussy employs grand chords and intricate arrangements, The Haunted Victorian Pencil stuns, with subtly devastating piano, and Keep It Dark, Deutschland is an elegant elegy to O’Halloran’s many years in Berlin.

An appreciation of the transformative nature of loss carries the record, from Sullen Sonata, which is actually pure radiance, to the profound The Slow Descent Has Begun.


Hilma af Klint said “life is a farce if a person does not serve truth” – well, this is all truth. Essential.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture