Friday, September 28, 2012

Myrrdin - Glomung Ofer se Weald

The lost wisdom seeps out from the depths of the ancient tombs, dark and beautiful.  The only truth lies in the deep fantasies of the imagination.  That is where one will find respite and sanctuary, magic and beauty.   This work by Myrrdin slowly approaches that strange twilight, easing one into the depths of synthetic mystery, until before one realizes, the world around oneself fades into the fantasy realm of the dreaming mind.  It hovers like a ghost of some uncertain dimension, where remembrance of that golden city remains.  Straight-faced, this spirit promises a land beyond an endless river, a land in which streams of sparkling diamonds run freely into the black sea that only the White Ship dares sail.

This is probably an album I should've reviewed quite a while ago, considering that it is relatively new, obscure, and one of my favorites.  Exploring both the antique as well as spacey patches, this work majestically flutters over a dynamic landscape, at some moments quaint and nostalgic, at others deep and mystical.  It is a work that I feel epitomizes the genre, and it is damn-well composed.  Though this album has synths that very much contain the "dungeon synth sound," they are not of the dirty and forlorn variety.  Instead they are rich and magical, having a vintage aspect no doubt, but certainly not a "cheap" sound.  Rather, the timbres have an luxurious quality, as of a strange fabric sold by exotic merchants who traveled from some unknown, distant jungle.

In terms of the composition, this is not one of those oft-listed dungeon synth records that maintains the same several chords for a whole hour.  It is quite varied, contrasting several darker riffs with the more majestic and beautiful ones, making the latter all that much more powerful.  The riffs never linger, yet nor do they depart before their spell has been cast; it wanders at a comfortable pace, allowing the listener to view every enigmatic vista in his own time, but never forcing him to remain and look too deeply.  It is quite easy on the listener, not requiring much work on his part to appreciate the beauty here, and yet I feel that hides a powerful complexity and uniqueness of vision.  This work only expects its listeners to explore the surface encounters of these beautiful images, as is very natural for a mind observing music indirectly, whether as background ambiance or nearing the dream-state.  But that is not to say that there is nothing below that surface, only that those lower and more obscure atmospheres, those "between the notes," so to speak, are delivered subconsciously, and arrive like unremembered dreams.

I sense a Mortiis influence, however that is only vaguely through the atmosphere.  While Mortiis sounds like decadent kingdoms, tyrannical kings, and rotted, undead mages, this sounds more like high magic: vast floating cities and immensely-powerful, benevolent, absent-minded wizards of a great old order that has matured into a trusted council, ruling the kingdom with their mystic wisdom.  Although that picture in my mind could very well be due to the highly imaginative title of the best track on this album, "The Court of the Elder Star-Finders."  This track has a mystery and darkness very much conveying the infinitude of space, and yet acknowledging the intrinsic magic of the obscurely-shining cosmos, which a wise and mighty sorcerer can look to for understanding, of both this world as well as untold secrets of the beyond.  And that is the greatest thing both about this track as well as the album in general, that it conveys utmost mystery.  One feels both that the ultimate answers will be infinitely out of grasp, and yet at the same time that obscure, incomprehensible knowledge, as well as experiences of bizarre and alien vistas, lie right beyond our fingertips.

In short, this is one dungeon synth album that I could confidently recommend to anyone.  I feel that if one doesn't get anything out of "Glomung Ofer se Weald," then most likely this genre is not for them.  Anyways, it is certainly for all of you who have an interest in reading this blog, so if you don't have it already, immediately go to Myrrdin's Bandcamp page where it can be downloaded at a price of your choosing:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Interview with Crow of Lord Lovidicus

Andrew: You just released a new EP, titled "When The Mountain Falls."  Is there anything you can tell us about these new tracks?
Crow: The tracks off the new EP were actually recorded back in the winter of 2011 - 2012. I was originally intending to complete a full album, yet I got sidetracked with my Jotun project. Initially there was a concept to the album; it had a story line and everything about a two headed giant that destroys a village in the mountains and one man escapes where he travels through the nearby forests and finds a sorcerer to aid him. There was more, but that's about as far as the songs go. I decided to finally release it as an EP to signal the return of Lord Lovidicus after a year of inactivity.
Andrew: On the topic of Jotun, though it is not dungeon synth, I imagine a lot of fans of the genre would have an interest in it. I personally find it a bit hard to describe, possibly avant-garde dance music? Could you explain the general concept behind that project?
Crow: I would say the genre of Jotun would be Norse themed electronic/techno music. Although I like the idea of avant-garde because it is pretty innovative. I could see elements of dance music in it, but I didn't really intend them. I'll just say let people decide what the genre is. Anyways, Jotun was more of an escape from the same old Dungeon Synth that I had been writing constantly for almost the past 3 years. I wanted to explore new areas of musical creativity. I think it was a greatly beneficial experience and now, returning to Lord Lovidicus, I believe future releases will be exceptionally improved. Another contributing reason as to why I started up Jotun was because I hadn't incorporated Norse Mythology into my music, and at the time I was listening to a lot of chip tune music, which seems to be a growing techno genre from indie games such as Minecraft (and I play that game addictively). In effect, Jotun has become primarily popular with Minecraft videos on YouTube, especially with my good friend Xisumavoid who did write very nice "Dungeon Synth-esque" music under the name Soulside Eclipse. His project was actually an influence to my early Lord Lovidicus releases, and is definitely worth a listen.
Andrew: Wow, I was not aware of Soulside Eclipse, but giving it a quick listen now, the "Forgotten Conquests" album seems like it's definitely dungeon synth, certainly fitting for the list. The recommendation is much appreciated.
There seems to be a clear nod to RPGs with your project, since "Lord Lovidicus" itself refers to a character from an elder scrolls game.  Would you cite video game music as being a strong influence on your work? 
Crow: Surprisingly, video game music is not a direct influence of Lord Lovidicus. I think on the "Journey to Beleriend" EP there was one song that was directly influenced from Morrowind, but other than that I can only say video game music influences me indirectly. Although, I would say that RPG's in general inspire me, such as the Elder Scrolls series and various 90's and early 2000's games such as Legend of Zelda or Diablo II. However, some of the biggest influences for LL come from books, not video games. The Lord of the Rings series was a huge influence, and I constantly read from the Edda's about Norse Mythology. Musically, the big influences would be Burzum, Summoning, and Mortiis. Especially Mortiis. My friends and I would play Dungeons and Dragons and the background music was always "The Song of a Long and Forgotten Ghost." There is really so much that inspires me, it's hard to put it all into words.
Andrew: What is your usual composition process?  Also what kind of synths do you use?
Crow: When I compose a song I usually have a general idea of the theme beforehand. So I question myself, is this song going to be dark and dungeon like, ambient and ethereal, or adventurous? Once I have a main theme I go straight to recording merely off a whim. This is mainly to get the ideas flowing. I'll record various melodies of synths, then I'll decide which should belong where. I usually like to begin with string synths. It just has a nice generic tone to base everything off of, and from there I branch off each melody with various sounds such as trumpets, timpani drums, tambourines, reed flutes, fiddles, etc. I don't try to limit myself on which sounds to use, although I do discern between which sounds are perfect for LL, and others that most definitely are not. I never name songs before making them, and I think most people can agree that would be an idiotic thing to do, especially if the song just engenders itself before your eyes. After giving it a few listens the name comes, eventually.
Andrew: What kind of keyboard do you use, assuming you're using a physical instrument rather than softsynths?
Crow: I almost always use my Yamaha keyboard (YPT - 220). It has a nice selection of MIDI sounds, I think it's a total of 350. I used to have an old Casio which was used from Windbuchen to Daulu Burz Ishi. When I'm not using my keyboard, I occasionally record acoustic or electric guitar and sometimes use various percussion instruments.
Andrew: What are your thoughts on the naiveté and simplicity in dungeon synth?  Is it important to remain self-taught, and perhaps even "ignorant" musically (by common, modern standards of course), or can intentional minimalism by a "learned" musician still reach that same primitive charm?  And then which of those two categories would you describe yourself as?  
Crow: I don't even think being musically learned or not has anything to do with it. It is more of a philosophical ideal; the notion of simplicity. Although, you can most definitely tell when one is musically learned or not by the sound of their music. I wouldn't consider unlearned musicians bad. They are actually more interesting to hear because of how abstract their composition styles may tend to be. For example, I have a schizophrenic friend who knows nothing about formal musical composition, yet he writes very complex electronic music with abnormal musical modes and time signatures. I would describe myself along the lines as a learned musician, as I have been playing piano since the age of seven and can recite rather difficult classical pieces. I know a good deal of music theory and can read sheet music, a skill that many modern day musicians seem to neglect, which of course is not necessarily a bad thing. However, even though I have the ability to write complex music with fluctuating arpeggios or 7/4 time signatures, why do I keep it simple? It is because simplicity is the fundamental basis of everything. Why write a novel when you can condense those emotions into a single verse of poetry? Simplicity is bliss and leaves so much room for imagination.
Andrew: Being an artist who has so far released all of your material as online downloads, how do you personally feel about the internet in relation to this genre?  Should we still be championing physical music when possible?
Crow: The internet has always been a large part of my life. I don't think there is a day when I pass up the chance to go on my computer. Without the internet, I do not think LL would've nearly gotten as much recognition as it has now. I believe the internet has a similar effect to many new artists, especially in this genre. Perhaps in the 90's and early 2000's, CD's were the preferred medium of musical listening, however, with the advent of the MP3 player and internet file sharing I can easily see old means of musical devices being phased out. A lot of people still love and cherish CD's, Cassette tapes, Vinyl, etc. Personally, I do not care by which means I hear music, nor the quality. The way I see it, the internet is extremely convenient when it comes to circulating music. That's mainly the reason why there are still no physical releases for LL yet. It's convenient for me and it's convenient for my listeners.
Andrew: What is your relation with modern society?  Do you bear any animosity toward it, or is the escapism of your music solely out of a love for fantasy?
Crow: Concerning my avid use of the internet, I find it extremely hard to relate with our society. I can see this being a problem for many others as well considering the social ineptitude correlating with use of technological devices. Although there are more pressing and ethical reasons as to why I am detached from society. I feel as though society has become soft; too innocent. There are outrageous laws of censorship, piracy is a joke, religious peoples around the world become too easily offended, the list could go on forever, yet I take the nihilistic approach and watch in apathetic contempt. Let their folly reckoning be their demise. I'll standby and observe as the Earth burns asunder. Both the love of fantasy and the escapism of my music are my way of fleeing the everyday trivial problems of man. It is to take me to a time, ancient and long forgotten, where I can be at peace with seas of azure, rolling moors, emerald forests, and dungeons of yore.
Andrew: What mindset do you feel is best for listening to dungeon synth, and particularly your music?  Do you find the atmospheres are the most powerful when focusing upon visualization, just daydreaming with it as background music, or maybe even listening as one goes to sleep?
Crow: Personally, the mindset that suits dungeon synth for me is surrealism, or detachment from reality. My mindset while listening to this genre is one that wants to escape the world for a little while and explore lands of creativity. Visualization and imagery are very powerful for me. There are certain associative thoughts that go along with all my music and music I listen to in general. That is probably why listening to this type of music while going to bed is amazing. It gives the chance for you to close your eyes and let the sounds and melodies take you to mystical realms. It certainly makes good background music as well. I guess it really depends on what you like, but I can definitely say imagery is big for me.
Andrew: Do you have any future plans for Lord Lovidicus?
Crow: At the moment I am working on ideas for the next album. I have not recorded anything yet, and unfortunately production may be slow. The only reason for this is because I am in college at the moment which grants me limited time for recording. On top of this, I have been experiencing technical difficulties. I just bought a new headset and whenever I place the mic near my keyboard's speakers it creates this annoying background static. I have no idea how I would fix that physically, yet I've been trying to locate the frequency produced so I can equalize it out, haha. Once I get past that barrier I'll probably start recording some songs.
Andrew: I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions. Do you have any final things you'd like to add?
Crow: I'd like to say thanks for the interview; it has been a real pleasure and a great opportunity for me. Best of luck to your blog and all other dungeon synth artists out there. This genre is a true gem.

The albums of both Lord Lovidicus and Jotun can be downloaded for free here:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Abandoned Places - Return to the Palace of Mirrors

For anyone who's listened to the previous two Abandoned Places albums, the sound of this one will not come as a surprise.  It does explore some new and interesting elements, yet it is still very much a descent into the darkest, grimiest, and deepest places of the crypt.  Like the previous releases, it starts out with a track that does grasp the listener on its own.  But, also as the previous releases have been structured, the descent into the middle of the album requires more of the listener, as it becomes even slower and more unpredictable, allowing the unnerving environment of a monster-filled catacomb to take form in the mind's eye.  The best approach to an Abandoned Places album would be to see it as a challenge, rather than as an aesthetic treat; think of it as a genuine plunge into the blackness, where one has to be vigilant against the ghouls and vampires which lurk among those shadows.  That, I feel, is how to best appreciate this artist's work, as something which one confronts and attempts to conquer, very much like the RPG notion of dungeons.

When it comes to the textures and timbres of the synths, I still feel, even though these are quite familiar to Abandoned Places' previous efforts, that they're some of the best in the genre.  There is undoubtedly a very lush, nostalgic 90's quality to the sounds, bringing one back to the time of the early CRPGS.  Though the artist has yet to do a cover song with this project (at least that I know of), Abandoned Places still seems to have one of the strongest connections to video game music while at the same time being undoubtedly dungeon synth.  It is a strange quality in the music, that even though it brings to mind images of pixilated, cubical hallways, it is that same "cheesiness" that seems to give it an even further level of menace.  Somehow the cheapness and vague familiarity of these thin synths seem to make the music far more frightening than had the compositions been done with modern and professional tones.

But of course tension is not the only goal of this material; there are some quite thrilling and relatively catchy moments, contrasting against the bleak wandering.  The first track, as I already mentioned, does this, as well as "Maramon," which sounds more like a desperate, frantic fleeing from an abyss that seems to be creeping further toward the explorer, the poor soul hopelessly attempting to navigate the endless labyrinth.

Though I did not review the second Abandoned Places album, and am not sure how much I enjoy any of them, I still strangely find myself coming back to all of them quite regularly.  The fascination is difficult to explain, though these are certainly the kinds of albums where I feel as if every time I listen I seem to see them in a slightly different way.  I suppose it would be that way with any dissonantly challenging work, and I'm not sure whether I'll ever understand them to the point that there isn't a moment that is draining and unsettling, though I don't suppose that was ever the intent.

The definite highlight of this album, for me, is the final track.  It stretches on nearly fifteen minutes, breaking the usual Abandoned Places form, and in that space it seems to avoid repetition in a way far better than any of the other tracks.  Even though it is bleak and dissonant, one feels that they are trudging onward to some eventual goal, through the endless blackness of tombs to some hopeful end.  I personally feel that a full-length of similar material would manage to explore that deep unnerving despair without seeming to be such an endless, forlorn circle.  My recommendation, if you have never listened to Abandoned Places, is to start with this track, and if you return to this world, sanity intact and with new insights on the abyss, then perhaps you have what it takes to descend into the deeper dark of Abandoned Places.

Return to the Palace of Mirrors can be downloaded at a price of your choosing here: