The ambient hut: Hole Dweller

Hole Dweller
With Dreams of Hereafter

Fresh from the fuck bunker it’s….Hole Dweller, with an album painstakingly crafted to sound utterly devoid of threat. A series of soothing vignettes that could have been scored for a kids TV show. That’s not to say that the package is basic for the fact. There’s a wistful sense of threnody at play across ‘With Dreams of Hereafter’ that aligns it with the underlying tragedy of comfort driven children’s fantasy: the fact that it will end. The sanctuary is an illusion, “reality”, with its nebulous package of non-negotiable demands will always beckon.

‘With Dreams of Hereafter’ lifts liberally from the beginners playbook of melody writing, with each track exhibiting a loosely connected collection of melodic fragments articulated through an array of markedly old school sounding synth patches, capturing nostalgia for an actually existing era when these synth tones were rife in chart music. But also a nostalgia for the carefree days of a youth stimulated by the warm glow of hyper-real fairy stories.

Tracks like ‘Mountains Fade’ offer up yearnful piano lines that transcend the muzak orientation of the actual chord progressions. Whilst ‘A Thousand Lakes’ furthers these ideas and solidifies Hole Dweller as an artist – unlike a lot of dungeon synth (not intended as a criticism, calm down) – with a working knowledge of music theory under their belts.  This points to two notable forms of tension at the heart of the music.

The first is common to most dungeon synth, bluntly stated as “is this sincere art?”. The almost obnoxious insistence on creating a fragile mental paradise as a means of coping with loss, depression, trauma, via music that could frankly have been composed by a machine for a cheap cartoon or lo-fi computer game, this dichotomy is viably creepy. And this leads onto the second form of tension, the tumorous melancholia at the heart of ‘With Dreams of Hereafter’, the desperation to create a completely carefree experience is so pronounced it borders on totalitarianism, reminiscent of the tyrannical Christmas spirit that possesses otherwise rational beings during the latter portion of the year.

For all the talk of fragility, intentional naivety, escapism, Hole Dweller manage to strike a defiant tone within the context of dungeon synth and the current mood with alternative music more generally. A world of “takes”, both sonic and verbal, of cynicism disguised as realist optimism, of people looking for the ultimate demonstration through their art that they have truly grasped the state of things where others have failed. Into this environment, albums like ‘With Dreams of Hereafter’ look challenging, a unique quandary at odds with the usual calls to wakefulness heard from the champions of challenging music. This album instead challenges us to consciously turn away from the abrasive demands of life and art, to switch off from the world and indulge the inner need to convince ourselves that maybe everything will be alright.

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