I should've reviewed this album quite a while ago, since I was let known about it by the musician around the time it was released. My reasoning for not getting around to it until now is that it's taken a bit of time to absorb, but also just due to my own personal laziness.
Anyways, on to the music. It has a large variety of varying synth presets, all of which are perfectly fitting. Sometimes you will hear degraded old flutes and violins, dirty and moaning, or sometimes clear and vast horns and strings. It is undoubtedly a conscious approach, utilizing the decadent sounds of vintage synths when fitting for the mood, and the more modern and "epic" instruments when the melodies begin to soar above the ruin.
But the ruin is vast, a bleak landscape of hopeless nostalgia, resting in the dreams and memories which provide solace in a place of seemingly endless melancholy and despair. It never drags one fully into the crypts of horror, but it acknowledges that truth lying deep below, recognizing that it is only through escape that one can find meaning and magic.
This is one of the many records which really crept up on me. With my first listen, my reaction was that it was "ok, but not great." After repeated listens, I recognize that it is, indeed, great. It is evident that the artist put great care into the melodies, structure, choice of synths, etc., all with the clear intention to explore the deep, dark, and mysterious moods which make dungeon synth so wonderful.
Another aspect of this work which I quite like is the album cover, which, while simple, seems very fitting for the work, being heavily textured, sparse, grey, and having a powerful but vague mystical quality which is hard to place. There is that same sort of feeling to all aspects of this record.
It is that elusive something which is so appealing to me about dungeon synth, that feeling that if you can just look at the melodies a certain way… then suddenly a magic spell is cast, and one is seeing into a wholly different realm, one which you have been subconsciously yearning for as long as you can remember. Or in "A Wizard is Never Late" one gets a deeply atmospheric nostalgia, a remembrance of genuine magic, but the bitter irony is there, that the wizard arrives precisely when he means to, which might mean no return at all… And as you continue to listen, and you feel that vague twinge of hope, you realize that it is an utter fool's hope, an insubstantial, fleeting thing, which the more strongly one attempts to attain, the further it seems to get, the more it slips out of your grasp. And then the composition recognizes this sad truth as well, evident in the track "Servant of Nothing." One serves to seek and create an intangible daydream, and while that escapism causes a sort of ecstasy in the moment, one is then left with only emptiness, knowing that the promised beauty will never be experienced in this world. It is a very emotionally dynamic record, which is quite unique in this genre.
Now, this is not to say that it is a perfect album. I thought "Wood's Lullaby," while interesting, seemed out of place and to have taken quite a bit less effort than the rest of the material on this album; and then there are some other tracks which also do overstay their welcome a bit. But this is still a fantastic listen, especially for a debut, that I encourage all dungeon synth listeners to check out. I very much look forward to hearing future releases from Erang.
The album can be streamed for free or downloaded for $2 here: http://erang.bandcamp.com/