NEW DSCVRY: the mystical dungeon synthscapes of TALES UNDER THE OAK

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ambient / folklore / dungeon synth


A good 20 years ago – on sunny days off – I used to cultivate a simple but very effective wellness routine: relaxing on the floor with the sun on my face and Sven Väth’s Privado (listen to the track on YouTube) on endless loop. In an almost magical way, this track managed every time to transport me to another (and a more beautiful) world with its very first notes. I had always wished that Sven Väth would have produced a whole album in Privado style, but unfortunately it remained with this one track…

Now, however, someone has fulfilled this wish for me – and, of course, for everyone who also considers Privado to be a masterpiece of electronic ambient music: TALES UNDER THE OAK – a “medieval folklore ambient dungeon synth” project from Berlin, as stated on Bandcamp.

During the latest of my regular expeditions through the Bandcamp universe, I almost overlooked this precious sonic gem because of its artwork, which visually does not fit my usual pattern. Nevertheless, the visual concept, which has been applied to all three of the previous releases, gives the content a fitting framework. Because even the name is program: as it is typical for the genre “dungeon synth”, it’s about mystical fairy tales, legends and old folk tales. About the world of nature spirits, goblins and trolls – and in this case, very specifically, about the “kingdom of the toads”. In November 2021, the debut album THE TOAD KING was released on the Dark Age Productions label. “The time has come, to sit and rest under the oak, and listen to an ancient tale, about the dreamy, mystic swamp” – so the short, accompanying text to the purely instrumental album. The cover is adorned with a grim toad king in warrior armour. These detailed drawings for all three releases were made by Vitaliy Ilyin. Who the person behind the musical part is, however, remains hidden.

The sequel SWAMP KINGDOM was released in August 2022 and continues the story of the toad king. And those who follow the monthly lists of new releases may have noticed THE TOAD FOLK, which was released in December 2022.



The similarity of the title Privado by Sven Väth to the so-called dungeon synth is striking. It would be interesting to know whether the experimentation-minded techno pioneer was inspired by this genre, or whether it is pure coincidence – after all, the genre dungeon synth was already created at the end of the 80s/beginning of the 90s. In any case, good old Sven proved with Privado that this kind of music also works well with a completely different framework, beyond the mystical-magical medieval and folklore aesthetics. But no matter what images this music conjures up in the mind, the fact is, these are beautiful sounds and very relaxing music, a place to “sit and rest” indeed.