Daily life can be quite a drag and I vividly recall the sense of otherworldliness that hit me when I played these oldschool RPG video games as a kid. Something about their sound just got to me, because it took you to that ‘other place’. It’s not much different with modern games, though my last efforts where with World of Warcraft and, repeatedly, Skyrim.
The rise in popularity of styles like ambient, film music, dungeon synth and such suggests I am not the only one and that is a good thing. People need a little bit of magic in their lives don’t they? The imaginative experience of playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons, playing a video game where you are the warrior-hero, or perhaps make some music. I come across a lot of this and sometimes it’s really good, sometimes it’s not. Let me take you down that forgotten path for a bit.
Blót Heathen – Migrations
Orlando Li Mandri and Leonardo Sorrentino are probably not of full-blooded Viking descent, but it inspires them enough to let them create ‘Migrations’. The idea is to catch the migrations of old when the people were in an uproar and moving away from where they had their homes and origins. This seems ancient history, but it emulates something very in the present. We are still not granted homes and food shortage and political upheaval forces us to move onwards. The music emulates that movement with drones and sounds that resemble animals, packed and trodding down the road. Tribal vocals sound on some tracks, where forgotten instruments resound and horns blare in the distance. It captures our continuously in-transit state, whether we let our minds wander or are actually on the run, which people still are.
The Gamelan of the Walking Warriors – Gamelan Beleganjur and the Music of the Ngaben Funerary Ritual in Bali
This is a recording-collection, gathered by Vincenzo Della Ratta, PhD in Ethnomusicology from the Sapienza University (Rome). As a specialist of the gongs music from the Austronesian cultures of Southeast Asia. It captures the listener instantly with the magic of gamelan music. The rattled, drumming sound is hypnotic and in that sense seems to emulate the journey onto death nicely, as I easily drift away to this sound that follows a completely own path. The Balinese music is repetitive, dense, but mostly simple and taking the listener away towards other realms. The thudding drums are incessant, but the metallic gamelan sounds are simply ever present and rattling onwards. You almost have to move to it, shake and rock gently on this journey to the beyond. Wow…
Kink Gong – Tibetan Buddhism Trip
The eerie chatter awakes me from my haze of gamelan music, but i’m entering a much more dense trip with this recording by Kink Gong. Laurent Jeanneau, the man behind this project, has recorded over 160 albums. He has plenty of material to work with and by manipulating and cut-pasting the mantra chanting with various effects, the word trip is definitely the most fitting for this aural experience. Its repetition is even more intense than the gamelan as the pieces continue and I find myself immersed in its incessant chatter and otherworldly nature. I imagine mountains and the high-places where these cultures dwell and were recorded, in Tibet (free Tibet!) and China. Finding calm in the flow, reaching deep within the self. ‘Tibetan Buddhism Trip’ is a beautiful distillation of the ancient Buddhist culture.
Gargoylium – Chroniques de la Citadelle
But what if we move over and under into the world of phantasy and imagination? This we do with the tunes of Gargoylium, a one man project that creates black metal and dungeon synth of the highest quality with a medieval vibe. Ever walked through a castle in that strange, top-view setting like in Zelda? This is the soundtrack of my dreams after playing these for hours upon hours. ‘Chroniques de la Ditadelle’ captures the grandeur of ancient castles, perhaps even from the viewpoint of a Gargoyle sitting high above, rigidly gazing out over the adjacent domains. Pleasant notes, with a mild reverberation for the spacious, stone halls of the old buildings take you from the high peaks to the dungeons. Particularly ‘Le Tombeau des Valeureux, Repos des Preux’ embodies the sonorous, underground tranquility one could find in the abondoned vaults of these ancient castles. Yet, there’s always a sense of might and glory. It even features the neighing of horses on ‘Gloire aux Trépassés, Par le Destrier de La Mort Menés!’. For a moment it breaks that wall of the strange, unreal world I’m in, connecting it to reality, but it fades rapidly with the bells in the great towers chiming and the sun touching the great, granite walls.
Earthencloak – Commune of the Gnomes
I’ve grown up with the books, illustrated by Rien Poortvliet, at hand. Of course, I also watched David the Gnome at times, but I found it mildly cheesy at a very young age. The drawings of Poortvliet though, they captured me with the horrendous trolls and dark, grimy nature. The same seems to go for the Yawning Druid, who is behind Earthencloak. On ‘Commune of the Gnomes’, he captures the fascinating world under leaves and branches of the mythical Nisse from Scandinavian mythology. The dulcimer hammers on, creating that sound of tiny feet pattering over the branches. Songs like ‘The Trolls are Near’ convey the fear of my younger years, where ‘Conical Caps’ has that funny playfulness to it. The record also contains a cover, namely ‘Land of Elves and Gnomes’, by Acheulean Forests. There’s something profoundly soothing and peaceful to a lot of this album. Something uncomplicated and pleasant, that I find hard to catch in my daily life.