A Winged Victory For The Sullen played their first-ever Copenhagen show at Koncertkirken as part of the Frost Festival. The Belgium-based duo of Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran stand at opposite ends of the altar, O’Halloran at a grand piano with synthesizers laid out on top of it, Wiltzie with his own synths and a guitar in hand. Their line-up is fleshed out with a violinist, violist, and cellist sitting between them, and the two full-time members occasionally nod to one another.
It’s a very understated performance. Despite synthesizers, despite an electric guitar, the most noise at any given time comes from the piano, and even then there’s something startling about its clarity. There is a huge disconnect between seeing Wiltzie play guitar and hearing what is expected of a guitar. His style is so muted, so delicate, that the tiny, sparkling little notes he plays seem more in keeping with some of the electronic arrangements. But in a room so quiet you can hear people opening their beer cans, it works.
And the room is beautiful. Koncertkirken is lit softly with strangely bright blue lights, and the stage area is dotted with Edison bulbs from behind a gauzy curtain. More of the soft blue and some green lighting do little to obscure Jesus on the cross looming over the musicians (hey, why not? It is Lent).
But these settings aren’t flawless. The first problem is that the altar is low, which means that unless you’re in the first row or two or up in the choir loft, your view is obscured. Not necessarily a problem in itself, but when everyone cranes their necks for a better view — and everyone is seated in pews that aren’t bolted down — something is taken away from the serenity of the experience.
That being said, the church has the perfect acoustics for AWVFTS. Their music, their style, is the same tone and timbre as a church organ. In fact, it seems like a wasted opportunity that they don’t incorporate the church organ. At the music’s loudest, there is never any echoing, just a pleasantly humming reverberation. And it is moments like that that separate bedroom music from a real live experience. Because ultimately, recommending AWVFTS live depends on where they’re playing. The performance of the band’s atmospheric music hinges on an equally atmospheric setting.