Tag Archives: Old Tower

Forbidden realms and forgotten places: the sound of out there

There are many places in this wide world. Some are hidden, some forbidden and some are lost in time. Music can take you there and this collection is a little tribute to that magical journey, but also a showcase for some great tunes about forbidden realms and forgotten places.

John Levy – Tibetan & Bhutanese Instrumentals and Folk Music

Origin: Tibet/Bhutan
Label: Sub Rosa Records

John Levy is a London ethnomusicologist who explores the musical materials found in the far and remote areas of Tibet and Bhutan (and many more. He explores the almost Delta Blues-like sound of Go-Te Do-Pe (immediately on the first track, by Tashi Laso). From lute and fiddle to the rattling percussions of Tibetan monks, the music takes you to a place beyond, with a meditative feeling through repetition and soft, rounded sounds. I particularly enjoy the singing by Trinlem of Tongsa, who with a slightly nasal sound, brings you to a soaring height with her singular voice. This is a collection of sounds, that take you on a journey to a sense of calm and tranquility. I don’t know exactly how (or why), but it has something to do with the repetition, the ease, and intonation and timbre of the music. For that, this collection is absolutely marvelous. I can’t get enough of the chanting, drumming and droning. Exquisite.

Rhian Sheehan – A Quiet Divide

Origin: New Zealand
Label: Loop Records

To see a composer score big with an album is an unlikely event, but Rhian Sheehan managed it. The New Zealand musician created ‘A Quiet Divide’, which is a wonderful piece of music. The cinematic qualities of this record are quite outstanding, making it substantially captivating for the listener. It takes you over the land, in that bird view perspective familiar from the epic movies as the gentle sounds evolve, grow and rescind into milder territories. At one point the music swells to major, warm proportions, while a moment later the pace goes slow again. From trickling piano to soaring synths and strings, Rhian Sheehan takes you there as the songs gently swoop over and under the clouds in a high-over way, with green fields below. It’s perfection.

Old Tower – Stellary Wisdom

Origin: Netherlands
Label: Tour de Garde

There are some undoubted masters in the genre of dungeon synth at work and if there are any rockstars (apart from Mortiis), Old Tower must be one of those. The vaporous sound of his synths, combined with crips and clear melodies, is a rarity in balance and composure, with minimal shifts and deftly statuesque delivery. The sound of Old Tower is one of melancholy and abandonement. Well, as if everyone has left the place a long time ago and all that is left is this empty, vast space with dust settling and gentle synths rolling over the place. While the gentle steps of the instruments barely disturb the dust, you traverse these halls in deep silence and deep thought. It’s music to get lost in, to take you to different realms to traverse in toughts with some absolute tranquility.

Gaetir The Mountainkeeper – Norðr

Origin: Serbia
Label: Prometheus Studio

The north has beckoned for many artists and Gaetir the Mountainkeeper is no different. The journeys his music tells of (knowingly I speak of a he, but I have no idea) are those from the ancient mysteries from the Edda. The travels of Odin, across the far and wide realms of fire and ice. This means a feeling of lengthy travel, which is captured in the dense, droning ambient and nordic mysticism of ‘Norðr’, which is delivered as 6 parts in one hour long track. At times it is really the wind blowing, the swelling drones and icy hails, but then the drums come in and take me to the Paleowolf-like sound of tribal doom. It’s a record, taking you on that heroic quest where you face the most desolate and threatening aspects of nature. This, makes it a grand experience to indulge in as you mentally traverse the great north.

Andrew DR Abbott – Live On Daisy Hill

Origin: United Kingdom
Label: Bloxham Tapes

The north of England may now have you think of chavs on street cornersrun-down down industrialism and a place where ‘Britain First’ is a popular slogan. But that’s not the only side of it, as Andrew DR Abbott explores with his baritone playing on this record ‘Live on Daisy Hill’. The former mill towns and cities have a character of their own and a simple beauty. Quaint, would be the word that springs to mind with the mild, folky tunes by Andrew DR Abbott, that feel like an origin story for the Appalachian folk medleys from across the ocean. A little Nick Drake here and there perhaps, as the tones gently caress the inner ear, like ‘Whatsandwell’. Americana, but then Britticana, with more Fairport Convention and less Johnny Cash. It’s weaving patterns remind you even more so where it comes from and what shaped its sound, making this a remarkable journey to a forgotten harmony.

Tallawit Timbouctou – Takamba Whatsapp EP 2018

Origin: Mali
Label: none

Agali Ag Amoumine’s WhatsApp cassette 2018 captures the cassette culture of the desert music in this new age of digital accessibility. Played traditionally on a teheredent and calabash, it captures the traditionally popular music and was send by Whatsapp from Timbuktu to Portland. The recording may be lo-fi, but captures the haunting repetition of the sahel sounds, as the lyrics are chanted over the clapping sounds in one rough cut. It is odd, as this tradition means the recording has an introduction and shout-outs throughout the recording, delivering a very special experience of a time past for the listener in an age of fast traveling media. Listening to it is immersive, as you have to focus. Best listened to on a cell phone, it says in the description, and this is very true as that is the means which allowed this recording to be made, send and uploaded on the same day for your listening pleasure. So indulge yourself, and venture into the desert with the twangy, scrappy, scrapy sounds of this distinct, bluesy music for a while. You’ll not regret it.

Dungeon Sounds: Old Tower, Thangorodrim, Elves & Dwarves

I’ve been astonished at the range of good, black metal inspired dungeon synth releases coming out in the last months. So here’s a summary of some really cool ones!

Old Tower – The Rise of the Specter

Label: Tour De Garde, The Shadow Kingdom
Band: Old Tower
Origin: Netherlands

Source: Old Tower bandcamp

Though Old Tower has released a steady stream of interesting releases over time, this is the first one considered a full length. The sound of this act harks back to the early days of the genre and fully embraces the epic, crawling nature of the dungeon. There’s also definitely something aethereal to the stretched out synth tones and the beckoning of the angelic chanting. Something  very alluring I would say, that makes it often feel more like dark ruins in the night, with some heavenly, seductive apparition. Something divine and calm you find in the music, which is very pleasant.

The slow progressing sound of Old Tower has exactly that right spot covered. It’s haunting, slow progression, the dark artwork somewhere between fantasy and occult grimoire. I just love it. Immerse yourself in there where the shadows are with this traditional release.

Thangorodrim – Taur​-​nu​-​Fuin

Label: Out of Season, Deivlforst Records
Band: Thangorodrim
Origin: USA

source: Thangorodrim bandcamp

Where Old Forest invokes the early days of the genre with it’s obvious Tolkien reference in both the name and album title. Thangorodrim even has a bit of a black metal cover going on for this release, with a single person in black and white, framed by a black with the name in Gothic font. The sound feels like it was made for abandoned castle halls, enclosed graveyards and dark crypts. The melancholic vibe tells of hubris in a once great keep. A fortress where only bones bare witness to past glories and the churning wheels of time.The chiming sound of bells can be heard on ‘Twilit Fogs on Tarn Aeluin’, which makes it feel a bit more small and intimate than the bass heavy synths on most of the tracks. Soon they’re coming in here too, but it offers a nice contrast from the foreboding, heavy sound that adorns the major part of the Thangorodrim sound.

Dark and dry, but always with a story in tow, this is definitely a record that should be obliged for anyone exploring this genre by themselves. Not just because it is mildly creepy, but because it’s a great piece of music.

Elves & Dwarves – Eidetic Dreams of Sentient Trees

Label: Self Released
Band: Elves & Dwarves
Origin: USA

source: bandcamp

The sound of dungeon synth has become more rich and diverse through the years. Adding ambient sounds like knocking, walking or such simple elements greatly increases the form of story telling the music embraces. As a listener you envision the footsteps in the ages old dust, the beating on the walls and other elements that make up the story.  Elves & Dwarves balance this with  folky passages and eerie soundscapes as the sound meanders on and on. It creates a record that is more rich and diverse in its sonic offerings. From a playful intermission like the ‘Silent Innkeeper’ to the descriptive, D&D campaign fitting ‘Ambush at Orcshead Rock’, the record really tekads the listener to places.

What is different is the general depth of the sound of Elves & Dwarves. The play with droning sounds and soaring effects on ‘Celestial Passage’ moves away from the cavernous, dry sound usually found in the dungeon synth genre. It creates a more  elaborate setting of forests and faery-illuminated lakes. The way the artist creates a story without ever being on the foreground of the whole scenery is pretty impressive and spectacular in itself. Evles & Dwarves play the soundtrack to your next campaign!