Friday, November 22, 2013

Erang - Another World Another Time

The cover is fitting for this album.  It's emotionally raw.  

The synth tones are varied and explore different lo-fi qualities.  Some tones are expansive and clear, some almost analog sounding, and many are crisp and distant.  This also gives it a full and layered sound.  The beginning of "The Great Castle's Gate" is a particularly striking moment, a very atmospheric melody and patch to convey that scene, a sense of towering stone grandeur.  Care was given to seek out beautiful and classic-sounding dungeon textures.

There's not just variation in the tone qualities though.  There's many different styles at play, ancient and mysterious, tranquil and beautiful, nostalgic and sentimental.  Erang is just as wistful here as ever, and confronts the themes with even more openness.  That's what I mean by emotionally raw.  It's more honest and direct, which can be draining at times, but then tracks such as "Vortex" are a gorgeous break from that reality (as well as yet another variation in style).  

The compositions can be complex, almost verging on neoclassical territory at times, so this makes for an engaging listen.  While it is still, like most dungeon synth, best as a background to mental wanderings, a person focusing more closely on the composition will find a noticeable attention to detail.  That said, the album still uses a standard amount of repetition for the genre, guiding the listener into a trance eventually, after he's come to appreciate the beauty of the surface-level details.

There's a lot of Burzum influence here (which is never a bad thing, as long as you don't count anything post-Hliðskjálf).  It's noticeable on a number of tracks, however it's especially clear in "Forever Lost in an Endless Dream," which seems like a direct nod to "Rundtgåing av den transcendent."  These moments are well-done, but are brief and distinct to many of the other styles featured on this record.

 Despite all the unique details and variations, it still manages to sound very much like an Erang record.  While there's nothing wrong with expanding on a vision, I have to say that I don't feel like this record is breaking any new ground that Erang itself hasn't already covered.  If you didn't enjoy Erang's previous material, I don't think Another World Another Time will change your mind, but it's a solid and arresting gaze deeper within a familiar vision.  Definitely worth listening.

It can be streamed freely, or purchased for $2 here:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mixtape 01

This post is a bit different from the usual content on here.  I decided to use the various tracks publicly exposed on youtube to put together a dungeon synth mixtape of sorts.  The first playlist, the "A Side," is pure dungeon synth.  The second, the "B Side," goes beyond dungeon synth, but is generally related in some way.  I may veer completely off-course for the B-Sides, here and in future playlists.  For both sides I try to mostly focus on stuff I haven't already covered on the blog.  I'd like to do more of these in the future, so I hope you guys enjoy the selections.

DStapeA1 (pure dungeon synth):

01. Heidenreich - Todeswunsch / The Prophet's Sacrifice
02. Ilmarin - Dance of the Elves
03. Erang - The Lonelyness Of The Stone Giant
04. Wojnar - Untitled
05. Olgerd - Eldar's Forest
06. Gvasdnahr - Seier
07. Evilfeast - Ode to a Rising Fullmoon
08. Soulside Eclipse - Cave

DStapeB1 (free from genre constraints):

01. Golden Axe II - Castle Gates
02. Mort Garson - Solomon's Ring
03. Nokturnal Mortum - Black Moon Overture
04. Perfect Dark - Carrington Villa Hostage One
05. The Days Of The Trumpet Call - I Saw No Temple In The City
06. Pogo - Dungeon Heart
08. Limbonic Art - Arctic Odyssey
09. Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - Question(s) Beyond Terms (Who Is Confronting The Impossible?)
10. Osamu Shoji - 宇宙空間
11. Carpathian Forest - The Last Sigh Of Nostalgia
12. Lorn - Diamond

Friday, November 8, 2013

Til Det Bergens Skyggene - Vandringen II (Lynnelandskap)

What genre is this?  It's not pure dungeon synth, however its dungeon synth moments are powerful expressions of the mood.  I'd say it probably falls back more with the traditional electronic/ambient of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and the rest of that crowd, however it is out place there as well.  I'd say in fact it doesn't belong to any particular genre.  You can describe aspects of it by referring to other genres, but it seems to me to be merely an expression of synthesizer darkness, chaotic and gorgeous and melting into itself like wax.  

It is not an easy work.  I'd say the first "Vandringen" was easy by comparison.  However, I feel all that is required here is multiple listens, to familiarize oneself with the riffs and structure.  On the first listen one feels very disoriented, since it rarely repeats, often uses dissonant melodies, and seldom offers a familiar tone or expected transition.  In that way, perhaps you could say that it's avant-garde, though I think on further listens one will find that this release lacks the sense of frivolity and whimsy that typically accompanies that descriptor; there seems to be an ultimate serious vision here.  It can't be described in words (why bother making it in music then?), but I can say that it is quite beautiful.

This tape seems to acknowledge the pain of life, particularly for those sensitive outsiders drawn away from reality and into the inner fantasies.  But this work encompasses both aspects of that picture, the distress as well as the escape, providing a depth of conflict often lacking in dungeon synth.  This conflict stands in stark contrast to the serene beauty of other moments, the low expansive pads steadily beating with life, the soaring synthetic trumpets ushering in the emperor of sleep.  It is incredibly earnest and convincing in all of these emotions as well, the genuine spirit speaking quiet whispers of what is within, without pretense or mask.

It's quite hard to tell at any moment whether what you're hearing was carefully practiced or improvised.  Every note seems to be in its proper place, and yet there is almost a dreamlike sense of spontaneity.  Alongside this is the rough sound, the lo-fi tape quality, the handcrafted analog-sounding synth tones, the severe limitation and obscurity of the material, etc.  It is authenticity incarnate.  

And the textures here are often breathtaking.  It is clear that much thought went into every tone, and I'm guessing that much of them were manipulated extensively by the musician himself, since they have such a distinctive timbre (or perhaps I am just not as familiar with the sounds of analog synths).  Either way, these tones are lush and warm, even when the music descends into the coldest, blackest depths, we are comforted that at least it is still alive.  It sounds rubbery, malleable, and organic.  The occasional vocal effects causes me to sometimes wonder whether what I'm hearing is a synth or a man's voice manipulated through effects.  And then I even wonder if I should even distinguish between the two.

I recommend it.  It can be purchased here:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Retiring the List

The era of my list, in its current exhaustive incarnation, is now over.  I will probably replace it with a list of what I consider to be quintessential dungeon synth records, the best ones to start out with, or simply the ones that I feel deserve attention, but I will no longer be an archivist of ds.  That was originally part of the intent, but that was when I thought that this was essentially a dead genre, and that there would be a point when I'd have to barely update it at all.  Clearly that's not the case.  But my main goal with the list was merely to establish what I considered this genre to be, and I think it served that function long ago.  The right people are all in pretty solid agreement on what this stuff is.  Of course there was also the value in it that allowed folks to discover obscure and forgotten works, however I think that is better served through an organic process such as reviews.  That way, as well, people won't be bombarded by a massive amount of forgettable redundant slush.  Just because something belongs to a genre doesn't mean it's worth listening to.

More personally, it just takes the fun out of it for me.  I'm beginning to get uncomfortable spending most of my dungeon listening time drawing lines in the sand.  I'm too biased, not a particularly great authority (in terms of black metal scene experience), and it takes me too long to properly digest records.  Also, it has become easy for me to just toss truly notable albums on the list and think that my job is over, without giving it a review or saying any words on the album at all.  Without the list I'll feel more obligated and enthusiastic to give these works their deserved attention.  And I'll feel more free to speak my mind, to be more critical about albums, since I won't feel like an official representative of dungeon synth, a spokesperson persuading the uninitiated.

Besides that, it is just somewhat presumptuous for one person to act as an arbiter for a genre.  Everyone should be deciding what does and doesn't count as dungeon synth.  So anyone is free to take the list, change it in any way (or not at all), and post it anywhere.  I don't need any credit.  I'm going to delete it from the blog in probably a month or so.

I feel more comfortable stepping back from this position now that other voices are speaking on the style.  If you're unaware of them:

Dungeons of Darkness Magazine - I mentioned this a few posts back.  It's great work, a more traditional zine format.  There's a lot of in-depth content and it's absolutely worth checking out.

The Dungeon Grimoire - A new blog that popped up a few months ago, with a writer who seems to have an endless well of enthusiasm and is quite prolific in his posting.  Very good stuff, and covers a wide territory.

Dungeon Synth Facebook - To be honest I haven't been keeping up with this page, and stumbled on it again in the process of writing this post.  It looks like something that we all should be keeping up with.  

Dungeon Synth VK - This is the Russian dungeon synth community that has been around a while now.  It is a bit difficult for English speakers to navigate, but it's well-worth using one of the internet's free translation programs, since it has by far the most content of any ds page.

Winter Synth - Not many posts or very active, but what has been posted is high quality and covers a neglected gap in the black metal related ambient genres.

Asmodian Coven - Doesn't have a dungeon synth focus, but often posts very obscure and hard to find (or even discover) works in the style.  Was around long before my blog, and should be a cornerstone for anyone into obscure black metal-related music.

I know that the list was probably the main attraction of this blog, so perhaps I'm shooting myself in the foot.  But anyways, without the list taking up my time (or more like avoiding it), I should be able write here more regularly.  I intend to post around this time every week from now on, so be sure to check in.  

Thanks for reading.