The world of chiptune is a vast and marvelous place, even as the world of dungeon synth is racing fast to become one. Since this development obviously concerns not just one race, creed or nation, but all of mankind, it is good to see ever more people pitching in. Swedish Digre have decided to kill two birds with one stone, or perhaps feed two birds with one bread, as they enter both scenes with Martyryxan, a peculiar piece of minimalist, lo-fi fakebit.
Surprisingly, this is yet another electronic group that is founded on Eastern Christianity. If no-one takes too much offense at the pun, one might say that the project has a concept that, for the genres involved, is highly unorthodox. After patting myself on the back, and writing the joke down to use it in front of my children’s teenage friends some time in the far off future, we can get down to brass tax: what is this about?
Created with FamiTracker, a Windows tracker intended to emulate NES/Famicom 8-bit video game music, Martyryxan consists of minimalist renderings and interpretations of different Orthodox Christian musical and traditional elements. An explanatory texts informs us that this is not proper ecclesiastical music, though much of it is “copied straight from the choir sheets”. I have no doubt that anyone familiar with those choir sheets will immediately recognize the melodies, which are created using very clear, old-school video game type notes, solemnly layered upon each other. For those few and far between Western fans of chiptune and dungeon synth that are not deeply devoted Orthodox Christians, the music will probably awaken memories of CRPGs, perhaps especially sequences when the player enters temples.
Martyryxan can not be easily compared to much other music, given the widely divergent elements that come together. The only obvious comparison would be Moaning Shadows, for obvious reasons, but Digre has taken the Lo-Fi, video game element several steps further, and the specific nature of the musical source material means that this has another tone entirely. It remains to be seen whether this project is an experimental one-off, or if Digre is here to stay in whatever scene this could possibly be said to belong to. If you’re interested in something hauntingly beautiful, when heard with the right ears, and indubitably highly original, you should cough up the 2 Euros required to buy a HQ download of this amazing little piece of digital music.