Friday, August 17, 2012

Munruthel - Yav, Nav i Prav

Munruthel's "Yav, Nav i Prav," or to use its proper characters, "Явь, Навь и Правь," explores many different moods.  It seems to rise like a fog, from the soil, grass, and wind, bringing moods and memories of the land and those forgotten ones who lived strictly upon it.  At times it is grandiose, masculine, and triumphant, such as in the fittingly-titled "Father-Sun," but then just as quickly slows down to a fragile and serene mood, such as the following track, "Thunderdreams (The Sleeping PERUN)."  This work is near perfectly fitting the traditional dungeon synth model, exploring all the atmospheric presets and effects of a 90's keyboard.  It makes heavy use of the orchestral sounds, but also doesn't skimp with the spacier synth patches, making this both ancient, as well as elevated above, within the cosmic and mystical realm of myth and deities.  

Those attentive dungeon synth listeners will hear a very similar style to the works of "Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra," which is understandable due to their connection through the black metal band, "Nokturnal Mortum."  As well, Munruthel is credited on my copy of the tape for "Midnight Fullmoon," though I don't see a similar such credit on Encyclopedia Metallum, so perhaps someone could comment who might know more about these associations.  

Anyways, while I wouldn't say this is a perfect album, it is still one of my favorites of the genre.  I particularly appreciate the track "Fern Flowering," which uses a very unique sort of percussion and manages to attain an atmosphere of both nature and a medieval society living in harmony with it; I find it to be particularly enchanting, and despite many repeated listens, the track never seems to get old.  One can almost picture towers rising, peasants farming, knights dying, and battles roaring in the distance, all while this one plant eases through its destined life cycle, amid the grit, stone, and toiling.  

"Yav, Nav i Prav" is split into two sides, Summerside, which is tracks 1-5, having a much warmer and energetic tone, and Winterside, which are the rest.  These latter tracks, while colder and slower, do not fall into despair.  They look out at the snow-covered landscape from the grey ramparts, seeming to recognize the dualistic nature of life that we experience, of sun and moon, man and woman, summer and winter.  It looks to the fact that we might've experienced joy and beauty, back, behind the impenetrable gates of our naïve origins, and that we might now be submerged in a violent, nihilistic whirlpool of some strange new becoming, but saying that we should have reason to expect a dawn, beyond this long, bleak night.  Or perhaps if not, then laying down tired, to face one's final rest, is just as beautiful and natural a part of existence as well, even if on the level of our species.

So what I'm saying, basically, is that "Yav, Nav i Prav" is very good.  It's often slow, quite simplistic, even possibly ignorant (there were some pretty directly racist statements on my copy of the tape), but all of these things come with the territory, which is an exploration of instinct, rather than "sophistication" created through civilization.  It is through art of such unaffected outsiders that we can get such an honest experience of the past, and it is through instruments of such familiarity and yet dustiness that we can grasp it as if some strange old dream.  I think most people with an interest in dungeon synth will get something out of this work. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Erang - Erang

I should've reviewed this album quite a while ago, since I was let known about it by the musician around the time it was released.  My reasoning for not getting around to it until now is that it's taken a bit of time to absorb, but also just due to my own personal laziness.

Anyways, on to the music.  It has a large variety of varying synth presets, all of which are perfectly fitting.  Sometimes you will hear degraded old flutes and violins, dirty and moaning, or sometimes clear and vast horns and strings.  It is undoubtedly a conscious approach, utilizing the decadent sounds of vintage synths when fitting for the mood, and the more modern and "epic" instruments when the melodies begin to soar above the ruin.

But the ruin is vast, a bleak landscape of hopeless nostalgia, resting in the dreams and memories which provide solace in a place of seemingly endless melancholy and despair.  It never drags one fully into the crypts of horror, but it acknowledges that truth lying deep below, recognizing that it is only through escape that one can find meaning and magic.  

This is one of the many records which really crept up on me.  With my first listen, my reaction was that it was "ok, but not great."  After repeated listens, I recognize that it is, indeed, great.  It is evident that the artist put great care into the melodies, structure, choice of synths, etc., all with the clear intention to explore the deep, dark, and mysterious moods which make dungeon synth so wonderful.  

Another aspect of this work which I quite like is the album cover, which, while simple, seems very fitting for the work, being heavily textured, sparse, grey, and having a powerful but vague mystical quality which is hard to place.  There is that same sort of feeling to all aspects of this record.

It is that elusive something which is so appealing to me about dungeon synth, that feeling that if you can just look at the melodies a certain way… then suddenly a magic spell is cast, and one is seeing into a wholly different realm, one which you have been subconsciously yearning for as long as you can remember.  Or in "A Wizard is Never Late" one gets a deeply atmospheric nostalgia, a remembrance of genuine magic, but the bitter irony is there, that the wizard arrives precisely when he means to, which might mean no return at all…  And as you continue to listen, and you feel that vague twinge of hope, you realize that it is an utter fool's hope, an insubstantial, fleeting thing, which the more strongly one attempts to attain, the further it seems to get, the more it slips out of your grasp.  And then the composition recognizes this sad truth as well, evident in the track "Servant of Nothing."  One serves to seek and create an intangible daydream, and while that escapism causes a sort of ecstasy in the moment, one is then left with only emptiness, knowing that the promised beauty will never be experienced in this world.  It is a very emotionally dynamic record, which is quite unique in this genre.

Now, this is not to say that it is a perfect album.  I thought "Wood's Lullaby," while interesting, seemed out of place and to have taken quite a bit less effort than the rest of the material on this album; and then there are some other tracks which also do overstay their welcome a bit.  But this is still a fantastic listen, especially for a debut, that I encourage all dungeon synth listeners to check out.  I very much look forward to hearing future releases from Erang. 

The album can be streamed for free or downloaded for $2 here: