Sunday, December 31, 2023

Hole Dweller and Dungeon Synth

Despite my love of angry and abrasive music, I have started to become more and more interested in somber and reflective music as a respite from the harshness of my normal listening regime. This interest arose from my discovery of experimental drone metal bands like Locrian, who were mixing echoing drones with melodic post-rock guitar lines, all supplemented with crackling noise, guitar feedback, and sparse percussion. Locrian, along with other minimalistic drone bands like Earth, helped show me that there was a whole world of compelling music outside of more conventional, vocally-orientated music. This discovery had me scouring music blogs and websites for similar work and the forerunners of the style, and somewhere in those searches I learned about the genre of ambient music. 

The name “ambient music” was coined by Brian Eno for a type of minimalistic electronic music which, in Eno’s opinion, needed to be "as ignorable as it is interesting". And while he did not pioneer the genre, he gave it a name and helped popularize it with his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports, which he conceived to be meditative and relaxing music to be played in a bustling airport. He created it by splicing together sections of magnetic tape (with improvisational piano music recorded to it) in a loop and playing it on a reel-to-reel tape recorder to create repetitive sound patterns. Currently, the use of tape loops is not as common in music production due to the introduction of synthesizers, which can create the same sounds and tones without the fiddly work of splicing together tape. Despite the demise of tape loops, ambient music is anything but dead. It was taken up by extreme metal bands in the 1990s (most commonly in the genre of black metal) to serve as interludes between songs. These interludes were performed on synthesizers and often had an adventurous tone and a fantasy theme. Before long, musicians were recording and releasing entire albums of this fantasy-inspired ambient music, one of the most prominent artists being Mortiis (HÃ¥vard Ellefsen), a Norwegian musician that started his career as the bassist of the black metal band Emperor. This style of music has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, and has become known as Dungeon Synth.

One of the more recent Dungeon Synth artists that I have been listening to is a project called Hole Dweller. It is the work of musician Tim Rowland, and it is themed around the fantasy creations of J.R.R. Tolkien, specifically the Hobbits of the Shire. The music is light and has a bold and undaunted tone to it, the sort you might imagine accompanying a young Hobbit embarking on a daring journey! To coincide with the holiday season and the winter season, a new Hole Dweller song was released, appropriately titled “Winterlude”. It is a fantastic track to solemnly contemplate the end of 2023, and to reflect on your struggles and your accomplishments.

Buy “Winterlude” here!

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