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Dungeon Synth

Dungeon Synth
June 14, 2011, 11:31:13 PM
Some of you have probably heard me defending artists such as Mortiis as being underappreciated and on the very artistic level of the black metal greats.  My intent with this thread is to start a discussion on this type of music.  Is it great?  Is it good?  Is it nothing more than shallow cheese?  Why?  The type of artists that fall under this umbrella are Era 1 Mortiis, Wongraven, Lord Wind, etc.  There's a number of obscure artists playing in the style as well, though inconsistently successful.

Here's a refresher, or appetizer for those unfamiliar with this stuff:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMXC-VnrSQs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ44Uop1-d4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYyJRiGnTi8

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 01:44:18 AM
I know very little about this type of music.  I love Hardangervidda (which you mention in your blog) and Electric Doom Synthesis (which you don't).  I bumped the Mortiis thread in the Audiofile for you.  I found his first album, Født til å herske, interesting and enjoyable but can't say it comes anywhere near the best of Black Metal.  I appreciate his effort.  You appear to be sincere, honorable, and knowledgeable, so I will try to whore your blog out if I can.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 07:57:28 AM
Very interesting, Mortiis is a favorite of mine as wel. There's a lot fot hat list I've never heard of, I'll be sure to investigate.

I wouldn't really call the music good per se, as it is very strongly driven by the necessity of the listener actively trying to immerse himself in the atmosphere and intent of the music, as often times the composition, melodies,  etc. of the music fail to live up to the vision. However, it excels at creating these Tolkienesque atmospheres, and that is its great strength.That is why I'd say that, funnily enough, although The Stargate is Mortiis' most advanced album structurally, it is probably also weaker than most of the preceeding albums, especially Keiser av... and Anden Som.

Since you are still trying to define the genre, here's some more albums you might want to list: Grabesmond - Xenoglossie (far superior to the debut), Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, early Arcana, Nattefrost - De Som Sjerde (posted years ago by an Anus member on the old bbs if I recall...pretty decent), Dargaard (different instrumentation, but has that same feel), Ildjarn - Landscapes, Valar, Boreal - l'Etendard.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 11:15:48 AM
I find that the failure of much of what is deemed "ambient" music is due to the fact that the layered structure most often employed doesn't allow for more than one prime focus in each song.  Burzum is good because diverse sections of music are both built up and interlaced, thus giving strength to each other while reaching out to the fullest extent of their individual goals.  Most ambient songs have one goal, and good ambient achieves this goal; some exceptionally good ambient works (Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenbetens støtte, Der Tod Wuotans) manage to subtly shift to a subsequent goal through the achievement of the first - that is, the culmination of the first "section" leads to (or, depending upon perspective, is the beginning of) the second.

I'll have to trawl through your website at some point, as I very much enjoy Mortiis's early works and Lord Wind.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 01:34:52 PM
Ildjarn-Nidhogg's ambient work? What's dungeon-y about that?

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 02:36:04 PM
I find that the failure of much of what is deemed "ambient" music is due to the fact that the layered structure most often employed doesn't allow for more than one prime focus in each song.  Burzum is good because diverse sections of music are both built up and interlaced, thus giving strength to each other while reaching out to the fullest extent of their individual goals.

This is always the problem with rock-styled composition applied to electro-symphonic arrangements. Rock allows at best three simultaneous voices: guitars, bass, and voice. Some are with slower songs able to work in two guitars, but any more than that, and the piece becomes confused. Much of this has to do with the requirement for a constant drum-beat, and return to verse-chorus structure within 40 seconds or your audience spaces out.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 15, 2011, 11:06:47 PM
Why was this moved to commerce?  I'm not trying to advertise my blog, and I'm certainly not trying to sell anything.  I was just trying to use the small amount content there to have a starting place for a discussion concerning a certain kind of music.  There's nothing commercial going on here.

Since you are still trying to define the genre, here's some more albums you might want to list: Grabesmond - Xenoglossie (far superior to the debut), Die Verbannten Kinder Evas, early Arcana, Nattefrost - De Som Sjerde (posted years ago by an Anus member on the old bbs if I recall...pretty decent), Dargaard (different instrumentation, but has that same feel), Ildjarn - Landscapes, Valar, Boreal - l'Etendard.
The Grabesmond album I put on the list was actually the demo, not the debut (unless that's what you meant).  I do think the first full-length is inferior to Xenoglossie, though I feel post-demo Grabesmond has a more distinctly dark ambient/neoclassical feel to it.  I feel exactly the same way about DVKE, Arcana, and Dargaard, and I actually thought about adding those for a long time.  Are there any Valar albums that are exclusively keyboard-based?  Also I'll check out those other two albums.

About Ildjarn, I included Hardangervidda in the list just barely, mostly because he was solely reliant on synths, comes directly from a black metal standpoint, and he isn't really connected with any larger styles so I wouldn't be opening the floodgates, so to speak.  For instance, if I added Grabesmond, I would almost have to add those other bands (and there's a hell of a lot more than just those mentioned here) who I feel the tags "dark ambient" and "neoclassical" perfectly suffice.  Neoclassical might work to describe Ildjarn-Nidhogg's ambient work well enough, and just plain "minimalist ambient" is just fine for Landscapes.  So actually, I think you're right nothingnowhere, Ildjarn is definitely an odd-man-out here.  I'm removing the Hardangerviddas from the list.  The line between nature-ambient and medieval-ambient is more blurry than you'd think when you really delve into it (assuming you factor in more than just the song titles).

I find that the failure of much of what is deemed "ambient" music is due to the fact that the layered structure most often employed doesn't allow for more than one prime focus in each song.  Burzum is good because diverse sections of music are both built up and interlaced, thus giving strength to each other while reaching out to the fullest extent of their individual goals.  Most ambient songs have one goal, and good ambient achieves this goal; some exceptionally good ambient works (Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenbetens støtte, Der Tod Wuotans) manage to subtly shift to a subsequent goal through the achievement of the first - that is, the culmination of the first "section" leads to (or, depending upon perspective, is the beginning of) the second.
Why can't ambient have more than one focus?  There's nothing inherent in the music that doesn't allow for that, and in fact I'd argue ambient is free to have far more varied and even sometimes contradicting focuses than conventional blues structures and rock outfits (guitar, bass, drums, vocals, as the poster above me mentioned); the only limit in ambient is the creativity of the artists performing under that banner.

However, I think general ambient is a very different style of music than dungeon synth.  When I think ambient, I think of artists like Biosphere or Klaus Schulze, music that seems to be coming from outer space or pure nature without human presence.  This dungeon synth stuff however is something different, and I think something a bit harder to place (or at least the best of it is).  It's somewhere between unconscious dreams and visions of dark fantasy, and with some element of strange deep-down nostalgia.  Now dungeon synth might have only one or two focuses, but I don't see anything wrong with that.  Some music is about adventure, some music is about meditation.  Obviously meditation is impossible if you do not remained focused upon one thing (or the absence of things).  I don't think the goal of dungeon synth is adventure or meditation though, I think atmosphere is the primary goal.  It's something beyond a simple state of mind; it's the feeling that you're in an entirely new place, one that you could never experience within the confines of natural experience (apart from dreaming if you're lucky).  I think music with atmosphere as a primary goal is completely uncharted territory, and has incredible potential.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 16, 2011, 12:14:34 AM
Why was this moved to commerce?  I'm not trying to advertise my blog, and I'm certainly not trying to sell anything.  I was just trying to use the small amount content there to have a starting place for a discussion concerning a certain kind of music.  There's nothing commercial going on here.
I can't say for certain why it was moved, but you were advertising your blog whether you meant to or not.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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I think general ambient is a very different style of music than dungeon synth ... I think atmosphere is the primary goal.  It's something beyond a simple state of mind; it's the feeling that you're in an entirely new place, one that you could never experience within the confines of natural experience (apart from dreaming if you're lucky).
This seems rather escapist.  Maybe not inherently, but such a concept certainly lends itself heavily to an escapist agenda.  What purpose does musical dungeon dwelling serve?  That's not a rhetorical question, I'm genuinely interested.

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I think music with atmosphere as a primary goal is completely uncharted territory, and has incredible potential.
I am always skeptical of claims such as this.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 16, 2011, 12:36:12 AM
I find that the failure of much of what is deemed "ambient" music is due to the fact that the layered structure most often employed doesn't allow for more than one prime focus in each song.  Burzum is good because diverse sections of music are both built up and interlaced, thus giving strength to each other while reaching out to the fullest extent of their individual goals.  Most ambient songs have one goal, and good ambient achieves this goal; some exceptionally good ambient works (Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenbetens støtte, Der Tod Wuotans) manage to subtly shift to a subsequent goal through the achievement of the first - that is, the culmination of the first "section" leads to (or, depending upon perspective, is the beginning of) the second.
Why can't ambient have more than one focus?

You've misread what I've said.  Most ambient music that I've listened to (and that's a hell of a lot) has only one focus.  I've given examples of ambient music which goes beyond this, and praised those examples as being great works - surely this is enough to show that my hope is for composers to transcend the idea of progressively unfurling a single concept?

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I think music with atmosphere as a primary goal is completely uncharted territory, and has incredible potential.

I'll paraphrase Fenriz on this one: "Black Metal bands post 1994 tended to focus entirely on creating the 'atmosphere' of earlier Black Metal while completely ignoring the aggressiveness and virility of Metal as a whole, thus creating simple (and boring) atmosphere music".  I'd agree with this: I think that the "atmosphere" idea has been done repeatedly, to good or ill effect, and, as with many other styles, is still yet to be fully explored.

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 16, 2011, 09:39:35 AM
some exceptionally good ambient works (Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenbetens støtte, Der Tod Wuotans) manage to subtly shift to a subsequent goal through the achievement of the first - that is, the culmination of the first "section" leads to (or, depending upon perspective, is the beginning of) the second.
Most ambient music that I've listened to (and that's a hell of a lot) has only one focus.  I've given examples of ambient music which goes beyond this
"Focus" is a bit of a big term. Can you be quite specific about what the focus of "Rundgang..." is, and what it develops into?

Re: Dungeon Synth
June 16, 2011, 10:19:47 PM
Quote
I think general ambient is a very different style of music than dungeon synth ... I think atmosphere is the primary goal.  It's something beyond a simple state of mind; it's the feeling that you're in an entirely new place, one that you could never experience within the confines of natural experience (apart from dreaming if you're lucky).
This seems rather escapist.  Maybe not inherently, but such a concept certainly lends itself heavily to an escapist agenda.  What purpose does musical dungeon dwelling serve?  That's not a rhetorical question, I'm genuinely interested.

The purpose of musical art should never be easy to state in words (otherwise it should probably just be communicated with writing), but I'll come as close as I'm able.  The purpose is artistically trying to find beauty and magic in what seems otherwise to be a bleak prison in which we are infinitely powerless.  It is escapism, but it is escaping from a toxic world devoid of spirit, one which we are powerless to change as individuals until it either collapses or we break through into some kind of technological singularity.  So basically I think its purpose is searching for genuine beauty and magic that is lost to the modern world.

Also I fully believe that there is no escapism.  The mysterious realms of dreams are real, that's how you're experiencing them.  They might not exist in physical matter, but they exist, and if they give you a more profound sensation of your own life than conscious interactions with the world then that is something very noble in my mind; choosing beautiful ghosts over ugly mortals...

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I think music with atmosphere as a primary goal is completely uncharted territory, and has incredible potential.
I am always skeptical of claims such as this.

If you are skeptical of whether atmosphere-focused music is an actual thing with room to grow, well that's what all this is for.  If my experience with dungeon synth is more than my own nostalgia and possible shreds of madness, and this truly can affect others in profound ways, then what that suggests to me is a thousand other visionary forms of music merged with spiritual-intent yet to be made that can open doors to other realms.

Now if you are skeptical of whether it has potential, I think that's an easier argument.  Consider where we will be in a century if we avoid collapse and miraculously continue progressing.  Consider the immense changes that have occurred in the form of cyberspace and virtual video game worlds.  The future, if we don't fuck up, will be very much like the matrix, at which point experiences of profound realms of being (where atmosphere will be key) will be of immense importance.  That's why any talk of "escapism" is so silly right now.  All of western civilization is built on escapism, the narcotic dream of heaven after death, protecting our living minds and souls in the darkest places, or visions of a utopia in the future that seem to have infected all the active secular folks.  Right now there is no strife or darkness for many of us, and likewise we live in a near utopia where we hardly have to try hard to achieve the highest standards of life necessities and comforts that mankind has ever had, and yet so many of us are miserable with this situation.  It's hard to imagine utopia when currently all our needs are met, and God is long dead, so now the only place where we can flee to is within.  And why not?  If life is meaningless and only about finding our own purpose whether that be simple animal happiness or spiritual profundity, then what is wrong with escaping the world and seeking that within?

So I got a bit lost in my argument there, but in short the only possible future without collapse or long decay (the only one in which talk of "potential" is relevant) is one in which experiences of imaginary technologically-created worlds is highest order of business, and in such a world art, and specifically music in this case, with a focus upon aesthetic experience and atmosphere will have unimaginable potential. 

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I think music with atmosphere as a primary goal is completely uncharted territory, and has incredible potential.
I'll paraphrase Fenriz on this one: "Black Metal bands post 1994 tended to focus entirely on creating the 'atmosphere' of earlier Black Metal while completely ignoring the aggressiveness and virility of Metal as a whole, thus creating simple (and boring) atmosphere music".  I'd agree with this: I think that the "atmosphere" idea has been done repeatedly, to good or ill effect, and, as with many other styles, is still yet to be fully explored.

I agree with him somewhat when it comes to black metal, but I think that's because many of the bands confused the arbitrary addition of female vocals, synths, acoustic guitars, etc. with actual atmosphere.  Atmosphere doesn't come from any of those things directly.  However, not all post 1994 black metal with atmosphere as a focus failed, such as Summoning and early Limbonic Art.  Still, black metal should always be about "aggressiveness and virility," after all that's what it is, and the really atmospheric records were able to add it as a secondary focus which was spellbinding.  Dungeon synth makes atmosphere its primary focus, and at times it absolutely achieves its goal, whether Fenriz would agree with me or not.  Although that Isengard track I put in the first post is one of the best examples (in average song length) of dungeon synth I've ever heard, and so Fenriz must've understood that pure atmosphere thing to some extent.