Best Albums of 2019: A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘The Undivided Five’

The Undivided Five (Ninja Tune)

This is Winged Victory’s second ‘proper’ album – if you discount two intervening soundtracks, that is – and what I found most striking on first listen was that, on the surface, it sounded closer to traditional classical music than most other modern classical hybrids in 2019. Dustin O’Halloran’s piano parts have unmistakable echoes of Debussy and Satie. The quietly ravishing orchestral elements – though recomposed by the duo from samples recorded in a Budapest studio – might evoke fond memories of Ravel, Vaughan Williams or even Thomas Newman. But up close, The Undivided Five is wholly contemporary, sitting in the creative spaces between classical and ambient, and made possible by 21st century production tools and synthesisers with their infinite malleability in shaping sound. The integration of acoustic and electronic is so deep that I find myself not even thinking about it, instead just getting completely immersed in its sombre colours, glacial pacing and deft use of near-silence. It’s grand yet not bombastic, and like all great albums deserves to be heard in its entirety in one sitting. At 45 minutes long, that’s surely not too hard, even in this Great Age of Distraction.

Best Albums of 2019 Reviews Index

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