It might seem odd to a review a soundtrack before you’ve seen the corresponding film, but when your all time favourite ambient group returns almost from the blue to release a new album you’re not going to wait around before hearing it. Evolving on the sound of their sophomore album Atomos, where they added electronic elements to the guitar based drones and blissful modern classical of the debut, Iris is a varied album that takes a few listens to absorb, but once you do you realise they’ve expanded their sound and crafted another album which at points still manages to reach the breathtaking heights of their early works while adding more diversity and maturity.
Being a soundtrack, Iris consists of more, shorter tracks than the previous two albums, but while there aren’t any ten minute plus epics they make up for it with a lot of variation of ideas while still staying true to the minimalism that made them so endearing in the first place. The first track Prologue Iris starts the album beautifully with a piano arpeggio providing a melodic centrepiece as strings, guitar and electronics all come together to surround it with a peaceful breezy ambience. The electronics of Retour Au Champs De Mars glitch and pulse vibrantly with the strings in a much more dark, dramatic piece, while Fantasme evokes a cinematic wistful and melancholic mood through its layering of bass, strings and guitar and Le Retour en Forêt is an almost claustrophobic piece which through closed eyes feels like travelling through a modern city at night.
But it’s Galerie and Comme on a Dit though that show A Winged Victory for the Sullen at their very best, when the piano takes the lead over a soft blanket of calm guitar ambience and soft classical instrumentation – each soft piano chord so perfectly timed that each individual one stirs the emotions before fading away into nothingness, as they give birth to the next as the beautiful melody unravels itself through the track,the rest of the instruments swirl up around it to give an incredible atmosphere – they don’t do this as often on Iris as they did on the debut but when they do there’s next to nothing as simplistically beautiful to be found in music.
A Winged Victory For the Sullen might have expanded their sound from their debut, but they still have the power to evoke lots of emotions through textures you can get lost in. While the dreamy and laid back debut is still my favourite ambient release, and my go to completely bliss out to, one can’t deny this is a more mature album with more colour, depth and vibrancy. A cinematic treat for the ears.