A few weeks before New Year’s 2016/2017 an unassuming little German band released an EP – their third release. Continuing yesterday’s topic, this is yet another dungeon synth act, but dungeon synth with a twist. We’ve already discussed the tradition of primitive, even simplistic means to create dungeon synth. In the beautiful beginning, this was primarily due to a lack of resources. The early work of Cernunnos Woods and others were recorded before computers had become powerful enough so that anyone – in principle at least – could make “epic” and overproduced music.
These days, when someone chooses the minimalist approach of the dungeon synth artists, it’s usually to celebrate a simplicity and authenticity, or to focus on concept and context, rather than superficial technicalities. This way of deliberately going for the primitive is democratic in the sense that it utilizes means for making music that really most people could probably handle. It is, however, also brilliantly reactionary and elitist, in that it longs for simpler times, while it makes the music far less available to anyone steeped in the audial extravagances of modern mass music.
Moaning Shadows, then, has taken this principle of anti-modern simplicity in a very surprising direction. Rather than what could be expected from a synth based project with such a moniker – dark and dirty synth melodies of the black metal side project variety – this is chiptune. Medieval inspired, dramatic chiptune with titles such as “And the Castles stand in Silence” and “Towards the endless Sky” (capitalization as written), but chiptune none the less. This is basically the sort of music you’d expect from an 8-bit video game with a medieval or fantasy theme, or a computer role playing game. The CRPG inspiration doesn’t stop there, either. One track is called Cursed but still alive, a quite obvious reference to the tendency of party members in Dungeon & Dragons based computer games to become “cursed” by various enemies.
In a way, this would have been even better if there hadn’t been computer role playing games in the world. The special sound of primitive video game audio, used to create medieval sounding, folksy tunes would then have been absolutely original. As things stand, this is still a great release which anyone with an interest in dungeon synth (or chiptune) should really check out. If earlier releases is anything to go by, there should also soon be a physical copy available from Swampkult.