Bread and butter, coffee and cigarettes, whiskey and depression, sex and sweat, Italo Calvino and A Winged Victory for the Sullen.
Sometimes the world offers you perfect yet surprising combinations like a bag of sexy gold: Kapow! Rich and horny? But let’s get real, shit’s been pretty bleak as of late. It’s been hella easy to get cynical. Stuck in our homes, saving the world in our dirtiest sweatpants, as spoiled idiocy tramples maskless spewing Orwellian 1984 type shit. Hear that? Fucking 1984? I’m boycotting use of that reference till the person saying it can tell me the plot or the name of the main character/narrator. Too many motherfuckers throwing shit around without knowing what the fuck it is.
I’ll save you the trouble, it’s Winston Smith.
Luckily, that’s not the case here. Italo Calvino is one of the dopest writers you may have never heard of. In my world he’s up there with the biggest of fucking wigs. I’m talking Texas-sized beehives, motherfucker. Certain yokels know him for best for being hella meta in his book If on a winter’s night a traveler, but that’s barely cresting the surface of the Calvino pool. In his book Invisible Cities (of which this fucking album is based on) the explorer Marco Polo (you know, the guy that made the pool game so famous) is telling stories about all these places he’s been to the ever-pissy and powerful emperor Kublai Khan. Polo tells the story of 55 different cities but it might actually be just one, you know, like telling a story about 55 different blocks and calling that shit the world. It’s a vibrant and perfect book composed by an absolute legend of a writer. Fucking read it already!
So, you might know one half the duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen (AWVFTS) Adam Wiltzie from his glorious co-project Stars of the Lid. And if you know Stars of the Lid, you just shit your pants a little cause fans of this band go deeper than fracking. The other half of AWVFTS is Dustin O’Halloran. He’s basically composed most of your favourite soundtracks (his tracks for the film Lion basically won all the Emmys), he’s released a bunch of solo stuff, and is an all around kickass composer. And these two motherfuckers decided to throw their talents in with a stage show adapting Calvino’s novel. That’s some art, begetting art, begetting art type shit. It’s like the Genesis 5, 11, Andy Warhol, and David Bowie having a week-long kosher sex party.
So, some motherfuckers got a hate on for this album. But I think they missed the point. Here’s a clue: check the fucking track titles. Take for instance the first track, So That The City Can Begin To Exist. If you give half a fuck, and I really do mean half, you don’t even need to read the whole book (even though everyone should) and you can figure out what the fuck is going on. Check it: “The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind. […] Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.” Pretty cool quote, right? And what’s it fucking from? Invisible fucking Cities. So this first track isn’t just about some fucking city, just like in the book. It’s about memory, and forgetting, and redundancies, and all those in-between feelings that are so delicate, beautiful, and evanescent you’re afraid to hold onto them too tight cause they’ll fucking disappear. It’s about how the passage of time goes so quickly after a while. All those years turn into snapshots like all your adventures and memories can turn into simple short stories.
I’ll give you a couple more examples. Track 3: The Dead Outnumber the Living. “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.” Come on! That’s some deep fucking shit right there! Track 4: Every Solstice & Equinox. “You do not come to Euphemia only to buy and sell…. On your return from Euphemia, the city where memory is traded at every solstice and at every equinox.”
Just like these themes, this music is both subtle and beautiful. It floats like smoke in the air or fog on water. These subtle themes require massive talents with a delicate touch or order to be done right. But you can trust Adam and Dustin with it. Sure, some people like to toss out shit without knowing a fucking thing about it. They jump in all ignorant and flail about like delicate little bitches thinking they understand the ocean by drinking saltwater. They’d tear it apart, make it all about them, make it all grand and showy and probably wouldn’t even reference the fucking text that’s it’s all about. But not these two. Not Dustin and Adam. These guys live in the smoke and dance in the fog like goddamn fireflies. They’ve dedicated their entire careers to the subtle and beautiful. And they’re masters at their craft. Fuck, evanescent feelings are their bread and butter. A perfect combination for a collaborative piece of art.