The Undivided Five

A Winged Victory for the Sullen

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The Undivided Five Review

by Paul Simpson

The Undivided Five is neo-classical duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen's fifth release, but only their second studio album to be composed as a standalone work, rather than as a film score or commissioned for a dance performance. Its title also alludes to the perfect fifth chord, as well as The Five, a group of artists based in Sweden who believed in the importance of making contact with spirits, and often organized séances. At the beginning of the album's recording, a close friend of the group died, and member Dustin O'Halloran learned that he was due to become a father for the first time. All of these life-changing events and profound ideas shape the course of the album, which is one of the duo's most labored-over works yet. The full-length was assembled from recording sessions in eight different locations throughout Europe, including Budapest's Magyar Rádió Studio 22, Brussels' Église du Béguinage (a spacious Roman Catholic church), and Ben Frost's Reykjavík-based studio. As with other AWVFTS releases, though, this is anything but bombastic, and there's much greater attention paid to intricacies and subtle details than before. The arrangements consist of calm, patient pianos, gently swelling strings, and deftly integrated modular synthesizers, which help the pieces glow and vibrate. It's a vast, involved recording, but it doesn't bowl the listener over with heavy-handed sentimentality. Nevertheless, if certain pieces catch you at the right moment, they can be tear-jerkers. The quietly stirring "The Slow Descent Has Begun" is particularly mournful, while elegiac strings rise out of the celestial textures of "Adios, Florida," hinting at Górecki-level proportions of sorrow. "The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair" is a comparatively brighter, beginning with a simple, doorbell-catchy melody before being surrounded by a warm hug of strings and dusted with a faint sprinkling of high-pitched piano notes. As always, the duo's song titles reveal their sense of humor, which ranges from self-conscious ("Our Lord Debussy") to pitch-black ("Keep It Dark, Deutschland"), indicating that a bit of levity and absurdity helps when pondering life, death, and the cosmos.

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