Written by: The Administrator
Alright. Maybe this is far too narrow a reference, but if even a single reader knows what the hell I'm talking about, its a reference worth making. Bear with me here, folks.
When I was a small child, I was obsessed with (and mortified by) anything remotely spooky. Luckily, the era of my childhood produced a glut of scary-but-for-kids material, and so, in my dogged quest to be able to gaze upon the terrifying visage of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark without a subsequent week of feverish nightmares, I sought out and made my parents read/perform such classics as In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. The titular tale features an entirely plotless exploration of a dark, dark house, starting with the exterior and moving ever inwards--through the dark, dark hall, up the dark, dark stairs, into the dark, dark closet, and so on. There is, notably, no story. There is only movement through the environment. Despite its inherent silliness, this is one of the first pieces of art that truly stuck with me, and I strongly suspect that has to do with the sense of implicit suspense and unknowing. The author knows what is at the end of this dark, dark narrative, but I didn't, and I had it within my power to close the book and never come back. But of course that was never an option. Any artist who dabbles in the crossroads of fear and curiosity knows this well.
Anyways, enough of that. Let's get to the dark, dark music, shall we?
The Beckoning House is the third release from Apparition Gauntlet, the dungeon synth arm of Uncle Abe's Media Conglomerate. While prior EPs were defined by a certain deliberate noise and harshness, this latest ten (eleven?) track effort is more...gentle. Delicate, even. No doubt about it: sonically, The Beckoning House makes a significant jump into a brighter but no less uneasy atmosphere. Rather than bludgeoning the listener with an array of intense noises à la 2020's By the Fading Light of the Last Torch, this fresh version of Apparition Gauntlet is stripped quite bare. In turn, this sparse approach means that every note is forced to pull its weight in the overall mission of delivering discomfort.
Of course, some of that wonderful cohesion is provided by the track titles, which illustrate where in the house the listener is, and what might be happening as one climbs further into the belly of the beast. But sonically, the environment and protagonist's emotion shines through as well. Take "An Unsettling Presence In The Hall," which utilizes a windy backdrop to indicate a space that, indeed, feels very much like a drafty hallway. A feeling of trepidation is particularly acute in "The Chamber in the Basement," which balances a sense of curiosity with a general dread. There's nothing here overtly or aggressive, but the use of repetition creates a definite anxiety, which only builds across the more conventionally spooky "A Mysterious Item."
Pulling out distinct tracks is an admittedly fairly nonsensical endeavor. Like unto a genuine voyage through unknown territory, there are seldom distinct breaks in the process. The tracks flow from one to the next with a slow awareness rather than an abrupt and distinct change of pace. That said, there is a clear sense of movement--the atmosphere shifts, the wallpaper and furnishings change from room to room, but the overall aesthetic remains intact throughout the house. As such, there's a certain comfort born from the listening experience. It is certainly spooky, but in the way a nostalgic horror game is spooky. The constant suspenseful pull through the house is quite stirring, and that journey in and of itself is the reason we're all here. This is a soundtrack, and operates as such. Like a bare-bones set with only a few formative props, the presence of the titular house creates the opportunity for significant imagined narrative. And...y'know what? That juxtaposition of environment and potential plot is something In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories didn't have going for it. If that's not a success in the dungeon synth arena, I don't know what is.
My own personal nostalgia aside: if you're a fan of dungeon synth, The Beckoning House is a no-brainer. If you're a fan of soundtrack-oriented music, this is...also a no-brainer. Buy it here! Don't miss out on those tapes.
Apparition Gauntlet - The Beckoning House will be released Jan. 14th via Euphoriadic Records. Find it here!
Apparition Gauntlet can be found:
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.