Even though it is 2020, I do believe we are still getting records that define the mythology of dungeon synth. Binding Branches is the second EP from Welsh composer Sunken Grove. The tone and timbre of this release is so quiet and contemplative that it is immediately makes its way into the minds and hearts of listeners. Add to that, the charming home made aesthetic of its cover and general Bandcamp page, and one has a record that feels like an unassuming classic in a genre that seems to still be growing.
This release is actually from late 2019 but now is seeing a wider distribution via a Russian tape label called Shum Derevyev Records. I am not familiar of the other releases on this label save for the fact that if they are the same quality as Olshanoe, then I can be eternally excited. Olshanoe is not traditional dungeon synth rather a marriage between neoclassical, ambient, folk, and a variety of nature based instrumentals dedicated to the breathing world. Shum Derevyev Records supports this with a small batch release of Russian(?) artists dedicated to myth, lore, and new age devoted synth. If shipping wasn’t so expensive from Russian, I would own more tapes, but Olshanoe should keep me entertained for a while.
The Sorcerer is a project which continues to remind me why I enjoy this genre. Memories of the Old Academy is the fourth release in 2020 dedicated to the general magic and lore of fantasy. Adorned with artwork from 90’s CCG and festooned with rich escapist tropes, The Sorcerer is a wild embrace of the genre that doesn’t merely intend to imitate rather express oneself in the realms of the magical. I say this while accepting the bedroom qualities of the music as I feel the tone and composition of these tracks are part and parcel to a solo composer making music for dreams.
I would like to mention that the name and album title of this release sounds like an angular death metal demo rather than a dungeon synth release. It helps that Execration Chamber presents a suffocating brand of dungeon synth and Cathedral of Unbeing is an existential wasteland of dying thoughts and feelings. If dungeon synth was a civilization, Cathedral of Unbeing would be the scattered remnants of civilization striving for survival on the frontiers of desolation after the fall of humanity. This tone and approach to dungeon synth is refreshing even though it is post apocalyptic.
“A collection of cues and soundscapes composed as an audio companion to the Dennis Wheatley Novel
‘THE DEVIL RIDES OUT”
Oh this is absolutely dreamy. The Devil Rides Out is a 1934 novel about black magic and the occult which was later turned into a 1968 film by Hammer Film Productions. the legacy of pulp and horror are running through the very core of this record that conjures the spirits of dungeon synth, synthwave, dark ambient, and film scores in a record that is dazzling and mind bending. For someone that loves the marriage between books and records as a communal experience, this record not only has given me purpose but also a quest to find other releases dedicated to novels.
Quest Master is new to me and I believe that is because it came in the dark period when I was not checking into new DS releases. This is a shame since The Twelve Castles seems to be the third release from a magical lo fi world that I very much want to be apart of. Melancholic and magical, this release from this artist that will be out on tape from Out of Season is something that I am glad I came back for.
“Projecting a psychedelic medieval dungeon exploration in music: monsters, beasts and foes are around the corner. Powerful and mysterious forces decide the fate of Gaia and the world. Time is convoluted.”
If the title did not tip you off, this is going to be non traditional dungeon synth. I will give everyone a chance to clear out if they came for proper and serious sounding dungeon synth. With that out of the way, what an absolute dream this release is and with a sound I never thought I would be into until hearing it for the first time here. DungeonWave or VaporDungeon is the creation of two artists with the goal of making music that fuses the fantasy of dungeon synth with the hypnogogic irony of vaporwave. The result is something that is insatiably tied to the aesthetics of vaporwave with its title conventions but is, at its spirit bound to the the realm of escapism.
You know the story. Obscure bedroom artist. Stellar quiet minimal sound. Handmade and handnumbered edition of 20 copies which have all sold out. By now I should brace myself not to be upset when this happens rather relish in the fact that those 20 people are apart of a collective that has supported a DS artist that not only has embraced the cold sounds of traditional dungeon synth but also sent it further into the freezing wasteland. Quiet and contemplative, Echoes is a monolith on the horizon on the grayest of days.
I can remember the releases from Ranseur in the mid 00’s right around when dungeon noise was causing rifts among the DS scene. Ranseur was not noise rather a primitive approach to an already bare style. I still have my tape of Obsidian Throne which I got through the primitive tape label Path of Silence which made everything more exciting. I do not know how to frame this release as I do not think Elves, The Primordial is for everyone even those who are into dungeon synth. what I feel about Elves, The Primordial is that if you are already subscribed to the idea of experimentation that it might be the perfect place to start for an artist that is the living embodiment of the hermit character and this newest release is a basket of strange mushrooms they picked from the forest. Whimsical and melodious these wandering sketches are approachable and showcase the artists love for the music without the hurdles of raw lo fidelity. Elves, The Primordial makes me remember Ransuer and appreciate hearing this type of music once again.
I would like toi note that I am baffled by these releases since there are a lot of forces that are at odds with each other. I truly believe that some of the magic with The Shakespearean Frog is its surreal ambiance of idiosyncratic charm. From the obsession with soap, to the melodious sounds of comfy synth, to the tendency to go into a jaunty rhythm, The Shakespearean Frog is less a dungeon synth artist and more a Idyllic Victorian Countryside Synth artist but that later makes little sense. What does make sense is the third release from this melodic prankster is even more fascinating when taken into account their whole existence in this world.