Umeå, Sweden, located in the northeast on the Gulf of Bothnia, is the home of Aindulmedir, who is really becoming one of my favorite dungeon synth artists. His second album entitled The Winter Scriptures, released recently on Hypnagoga Press, which he co-owns, has turned out to be just the thing I’d been waiting for. For those that may not be aware, dungeon synth is a subgenre of dark ambient music that emerged maybe 30 years ago that often plays with the same themes and aesthetics as black metal, but in a much quieter, somber and sometimes dreamier fashion. These dark soundscapes, including these 14 tracks on The Winter Scriptures, can at times bring to mind, well, what it must have been like sitting in a dungeon back in medieval times, all alone, very late at night, although there is a candle lit ancient cathedral tone to many of these as well.
The album opens with Daglbundes and the cold winds are blowing outside as soft and lonely synths begin. It isn’t long before you know you’re all alone in these frozen lands, and perhaps that’s a good thing. Scriptorium enters with an element of doom followed by medieval church tones, noting that the definition of the word is a room set apart for writing, especially one in a monastery where manuscripts were copied. The First Secrets sets an even quieter and sadder tone to this experience as well.
Pär Boström, aka Aindulmedir, is involved in several other music projects, most notably Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast, and he’s shared that his latest collection of melodic improvisations and night-time recordings are intended as “winter music for bibliophiles and hermits.” Mastered by none other than Simon Heath, this is some of the best winter synth music out there, an album some have called an instant classic. While listening it’s as if you can feel the stone chambers and old pages present within the pieces. And while we may not have the same level of winter cold here in Los Angeles as Boström does in his frozen north, The Winter Scriptures has proven to be a perfect soundtrack for our grey and rainy days, and these all too quiet isolated Covid-19 nights.
Ulphurn, a personal favorite, is winter synth at its finest with tiny little chimes and a cold drone sweep reminiscent of a Gregorian chant or compline choir. Book of Eypnon has a monastic flavor as well, though there are elements of horror. The Winter Scriptures, the title track, is a late night dungeon droney tale of gloom left waiting for a sunrise that will not really arrive. The few hours of daylight during winter in Northern Sweden do not live up to their name. With the sun lurking behind trees just above the horizon, behind a mile of clouds, dawn turns into dusk without even bothering to pretend there is anything in between.
That winter tunnel experience, as it often called, continues on Dvellmnep and Scandinavian friends have told me the dark can have disastrous effects on your well-being, mood and activity level. We’re alone, and there are hours, days and weeks to be endured. Nattre, perhaps taken from the french word for behave, warns us to watch out for the traps of comfort and isolation during the longest of nights. Labyrinth is a bleak and frosty dark ambient treat and The Last Towers continues in that vein telling a hermetic tale. Arkdesmara offers a ray of hope, but not one that will last for long. Book of Eiph has a medieval pipe organ quality to it, while The Sulphur Elixir, another personal favorite, returns us to the snow covered monastery at midnight. Emekdep closes the album with the sweet, sad chimes reminiscent of the start of a thawing spring.
At times The Winter Scriptures reminds me of The Secrets of Chartres by Mathais Grassow, an ambient favorite for that mysterious French cathedral built around 1200, but unlike Grassow’s long immersive soundscapes, Boström has crafted 14 smaller dungeon winter synth lo-fi improvisations that are so compelling singularly and collectively that they beg to be listened to repeatedly. As Nordling Rites ov Karhu writes, “The layers and the richness of the music and the warmth of composition all rival the debut’s, and if indeed at least many of these songs are improvisations, then there is magic in Aindulmedir’s fingers that I could not sing praise high enough for.” Whether it’s a dark cold winter night alone where you are, or if you’re feeling a little lonely, Boström’s latest is a must for your collection.