Dungeon Synth (Edit)
Get my 2017 Album "The hollow Earth":
- on Bandcamp (digital download).
You can also order a physical CD on Kunaki.com:
- or credit card only
- or digital tracks (slightly cheaper than on Bandcamp but no flac download)
Listen to it from here
Promo short video:
Wow, what a pleasant surprise. I guess I had gotten the impression from this artist’s previous album that this was entirely a chip-oriented project like Digre or Chevalier. What we have here seems to take some advantage of the fuzzy, low-fi timbres, but not exclusively - there are some smoother, 90s keyboard sounds to balance some of the fuzzier midlines, and this album starts off punchy, with strong momentum driven by active, syncopated lines all over the mix. The blend of sounds on this album as a whole is really nice, as the chip sounds are mixed in well with the more modern sounding keyboards. Over the course of the next 50 or so minutes we get a sample of just about every sound under the banner of dungeon synth - there’s a bit of the weird, a bit of the epic, a bit of the idyllic. This all feels like the work of the same artist rather than a compilation, so to me it’s impressive that such a wide variety of sounds can be given coherence on a single album.
The composition is very diverse - there seems to be a prevailing influence from CRPG music that is not just a result of the sounds used, but the composition has the same kind of hyperactivity that is sometimes fatiguing but usually used to good effect here. The more relaxing/subdued tracks like “Ildesyril (Daydreams)” and “Brellüa ub Ibelüe (Underground Water)” even have some of this quality, which puts me in mind of light fantasy music (but in a way that defies cliché). A bit of subtle, pulsing noise in “Bri? (Alone?)” indicates that this dungeon is a bit psychological as well, underpinning the more melancholy instrumental work in this album. Immediately after, “Aedir sta Vikildar (The Warlock’s grip)” gives us a more serpentine dungeon crawl, getting a lot of mileage out of some simple repeating patterns off of which a few somber melodies interject.
The artist describes this as old school dungeon synth, and I don’t see that in the sound, but certainly in the intent. The track sequence supplies a strong sense of narrative, and that is cemented by the diversity of sounds, approaches, and more importantly track lengths, which makes the length of this album really breeze by. I can’t say for certain how much DS artists think about sequence when composing an album, unless the album is all one track or there is a seamless mix indicating some desire for continuity. Here, we get an album of songs that isn’t compositionally related, but keeps a steady atmosphere throughout without fatiguing the listener with too much sameness. If I had to find a critique of this overall very pleasant experience, it’s that you sometimes hear the “too many notes” problem of music that is very busy and/or sequenced - some melodies seem to find their way into a dead end from time to time, stumbling into dissonance without a perceptible purpose. This is, to me, a common flaw, and it’s not unforgivable, just is something that I notice happens sometimes with synth music with a lot of complexity. It happens less than 5 times on this record, and I don’t think it impacts my enjoyment of this album at all.
things to ponder while listening: what is the mysterious language used in the track titles? and what is that dog doing in the dungeon?
I had the privilege of hearing a very early version of this album, and I'm glad this is finally out just in time to make my list. This album is pure magic. Every track takes you somewhere, to a place, a time, or just an abstracted synesthetic experience. The tone consistently carries that bittersweet out-of-reach nostalgic essence that makes DS what it is. Just wonderful. You have to hear it.