Review / A Compendium of Curiosities – The Resting Place of Dreams

It’s accepted that a day has 24 hours, and a week is made up of 7 days. We only have so much time and energy to devote to our passions and hobbies once the actions necessary for survival are done, and it is – almost invariably – never enough. How much more could we do if only there were a few more hours in the day?

Yet Ayloss continues to confound that understanding – surely the only thing that can explain his prolific work rate and quality of his music is that he has found some spell or device which changes the flow of time. He’s recently released records as Spectral Lore (including the 2-hour collaboration with Mare Cognitum), Mystras, Ontrothon, and in two months released an EP and album as A Compendium of Curiosities. Each act he’s involved in has its own distinctive style, and that is borne out here. On The Resting Place of Dreams, Ayloss explores a combination of dungeon synth, Neo-medieval, and chiptune that conjures up vibes of 80’s role-playing games, whether on a computer or table-top. Carrying an aura of despondency and sorrow that culminates in triumph, it strays into the ambient side of dungeon synth at times, yet still manages to convey a clear narrative and sense of progression both musically and in its story.

There’s a growing number of musicians who have been combining chiptune and dungeon synth – most notably Kobold and other artists on the Heimat Der Katastrophe label, and Ayloss’ own Ontrothon (which pulls from similar sources, but is more bright, polished, and relatively modern – if A Compendium of Curiosities is 8-bit, then Ontrothon is 16-bit) – and A Compendium of Curiosities achieves the laudable feat of retaining its own identity whilst still being comparable to such acts. The songs are quite densely layered, often with multiple melodies weaving between one another, held together through a sense of sinister fantasy. Marching drums, haunting melodies, atmospheric rhythms – it could well be the soundtrack to a lost Sierra On-Line game.

Rooted as it is in retro sounds, there are moments when The Resting Place of Dreams can be a touch harsh and overwhelming. The nature of such waveforms and synths is that they can come across as very harsh and jagged, especially when layered, and it gives the first half of the album a spikiness that can be jarring at first, but it fits perfectly with the themes of the album, and is not out of place musically.

Overall, The Resting Place of Dreams is another excellent record by one of underground music’s most creative and restless individuals. Captivating and cathartic, it is an album that shows just how fruitful the combination of dungeon synth and chiptune can be, and that by looking backwards, new ways forward can sometimes be found.

The Resting Place of Dreams is out now and can be ordered here.

Words: Stuart Wain

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