I've searched far and wide in my memory and archives for a fitting starting point to this journal dedicated to Evergreen. But what's your first memory of breathing? Or of sunlight? Evergreen's music is so pervasive in the DS scene, that I'm sure I've listened to it so many times before even realizing it. However, I have a very vivid recalling of my first journey into Dreamspell Athenaeum, from the project Keys to Oneiria.

I was doing one of the most mundane activities of adult life: namely, I was knee-deep in laundry, and decided to put the album on to keep me company during that dull task. As the first notes rang, however, I was instantly hit by the sheer beauty of the music, and I knew this would become one of my favourite DS projects ever. Musically, it captures flawlessly the oneiric theme, leading the listeners to journeys of wonder, magic and introspection. I was pretty much reminded of every portal to other worlds from my youthful readings: a certain wardrobe, a rainbow bridge, a very peculiar lamp... In addition, the visual aspects of the albums, which is not something I usually focus on when listening to a project for the first time, complements the music in a terrific way, underlying the key elements (pun intended) of each release: doors, arcades, libraries... such lovely liminal symbols are perfect for a project that gives us the keys to embark on wondrous journeys of our own.

Continuing the themes of keys and journeys to fantasy lands, another of my favourite projects by Evergreen is Windkey Tapes.

I can't claim to know exactly why Windkey Tapes came to be. The first releases suggest a Keys to Oneiria spinoff, or at least a label where Evergreen could publish their Oneiria albums. The aesthetics of the projects is very similar, with Windkey leaning even more on the beauty of DIY J-cards, highlighted by the collage elements in the logo, in some of the album art, and even in some promo materials.

However, it seems that Windkey Tapes soon took a life on its own, providing a safe and nurturing space for some of Evergreen's most daring experimentations, including contaminations with genres that I wouldn't usually associate with Dungeon Synth.

The theme of contaminations of Dungeon Synth is a very uncomfortable elephant in this music scene, and it has been discussed time and again by people frequenting DS from way longer than me. By touching upon it I've put myself in a pickle but, rather than speaking platitudes, I'll focus only on my journey as an artist. In 2022, when I first realized that I might have had a shot at starting a DIY music project that might be interesting for the DS community, I had countless inner debates: was my music Dungeon Synth or not? At times, I was galvanized by the positive feedback of the people around me (I've already mentioned Alessandro and Lichdom, but at some point I also reached out to Erang himself). In other moments, though, my music seemed too far removed from an ideal "Dungeon Synth sound", and I was tempted more than once to call it quits before even trying to publish an album. The issue was apparently resolved by the discovering of the Fantasy Synth tag: if terrific artists such as Elyvilon used it, why couldn't I?

The tag Fantasy Synth seemed to have less history to contend with, and it fitted to a tee Wanderings and Vistas, my first release.

However, it soon became clear that my music couldn't be fully encompassed by that description. Indeed, a significant part of my releases has nothing to do with dungeons or anything remotely fantasy, and instead channels my thoughts and emotions on the theme of illness.

I've mentioned several times that I'm lucky enough to be a member of a terrific online DS community, where I met a lot of great artists, including Evergreen. In those early months of ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ, I've often voiced my fears to clutter the DS space with releases that are too far off the beaten path. Instead, everyone has been tremendously supportive of my power metal background and of music touching themes that are dear to my heart, no matter how unusual in this scene. However, the person I owe the most my embracing of the Dungeon Synth label is without any doubts Evergreen. They envision DS as a vast landscape, not unlike Middle Earth or other places born out of our dreams. In this landscape, there are the 'usual' DS haunts (if there's such a thing): ruined castles, forgotten towers, inaccessible peaks... but also homely cottages, ancient dinosaurs roaming the land, and many more niche ecosystems. Not everything needs to be everyone's cup of tea, but there's room for everyone. In other words, Evergreen hopes for a DS community welcoming towards all well-meaning folk, where music about a heart transplant can be featured side to side with a light-hearted project about a fungal abomination (yes, that's another of Evergreen's projects). I fully embrace this dream and will advocate for it every time I can.

Before closing off, I really need to mention one of Evergreen's better known projects: Fogweaver. It's inspired by the Earthsea series written by Ursula K. Le Guin, and I always cherish enchanting music inspired by literature. In addition, Fogweaver offers a very fitting interpretation of the stories and the places of Earthsea. From soft, intimate moments, to nostalgic memories of the past, to epic tunes fit for the pivotal moments in one's own quests, this project has a lot to offer to everyone. Describing every album is a hopeless task, and I'd not feel adequate to undertake it. However, I want to share with you one of my favourite songs, that blends perfectly the feeling of being thrown into a perilous world, but with enough skill and resolve to face every challenge that will come.

I've asked Evergreen for more details on the title, and they replied: "It comes from a description of the main character's sailboat "Lookfar" and its sails. I love this phrase a lot, it really does paint an image in my mind of a tattered sail flapping in the wind on the open sea."

One could talk about Evergreen's music for a long time: there are so many projects to discover, an incredible number of releases per year, and countless forays into uncharted territories. It's mind-blowing to think they also have secret projects! All of this without any compromise to their artistic vision and quality of their releases.

I'll close off by mentioning one other aspect I love about Evergreen: they weave a wonderful web of collaborations, mostly evident through Windkey tapes (but not exclusive to that project).

(Key III features also Snowspire, and I've already mentioned its influence on some of my own music in the journal entry on Willow Tea).

How to sum up in a few sentences an artist so complex and multifaceted as Evergreen? One of the most striking common denominators of all their music is the tremendous passion and love they pour into it. In turn, such love overflows and reaches far into the communities they're a part of, to the benefit of everyone.

I feel truly privileged to have crossed their path, and my admiration of their works trickled down to my latest release, Oneiric Quest. It wouldn't have been born without the influence of Keys to Oneiria, Windkey Tapes, and Hidden Passage.

When I show the first draft of my journals to the artists, I always ask if they want to add something or are willing to answer some questions. Evergreen has been kind enough to share some lore behind Keys to Oneiria and Windkey Tapes. Here's our conversation on those projects.

ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ: I don't want to pry too much into Keys to Oneiria, since the aura of mystery fits so well the themes - after all, how can you map a dream? On the other hand, I love the aesthetics of the project, so it'd be fantastic if you wanted to share whatever you want about them. Also, is it correct that there's collage here and there, or is that only for Windkey?

Evergreen: Yes, I do keep Keys to Oneiria enshrouded in some amount of mystery. It is hard to map a dream, as you said. The truth of the matter is Oneiria is an ever-shifting, ever changing world of liminality, between this world and other worlds. It is the land of dreams and possibly other things too. Much of it is indescribable. Keys to Oneiria explores some dreams I have here and there, but it generally is also the auditory map to places I imagine. Within this idea, Oneiria is something accessed through portals, via sleep, or via the keys to Oneiria. These keys open the gateways to the land between. I have always been deeply fascinated by keys, gateways, portals, and dreams. So that is at the heart of Keys to Oneiria. But it is also intentionally abstract, as Oneiria isn't experienced the same way by each individual. So in this way, liminality, the abstract, and ephemerality are all core tenets of this world. I do some collage work for this but mostly in regards to the splits. The main albums have much more basic art overall. I like the art to mostly be guided by feelings. That sort of strange sadness one has when waking from a dream, to me, feels very similar to the strange sadness of seeing decrepit liminal spaces.

ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ: About Windkey Tapes, I wrote: "The first releases suggest a Keys to Oneiria spinoff, or at least a label where Evergreen could publish their Oneiria albums". Would you like to tell your own story of how Windkey Tapes began, and how the original concept has evolved through the years?

Evergreen: Ah yes, Windkey did start in some ways as an offshoot of some of the Keys to Oneiria ethos. Not as much the actual world (despite "key" being in the name), though they are similar and I will explain in detail! Windkey started as a way to embrace the DIY ethos of dungeon synth (particularly of the lower fidelity end) and other lofi works. Keys to Oneiria is created entirely on a four track cassette recorder. In other words, I don't use a DAW or anything for that material. It's not the only project I do this for and it certainly isn't the first I have done it for either. I decided that I wanted to have a place to collect some of the works I make in the simplest manner, and do it all by hand.

I've always appreciated the smaller lower fidelity DS labels and works, namely Verdant Wisdom of whom I take a ton of inspiration. Printing everything at home, folding it, dubbing it, etc always sounded appealing because it's kind of an inconvenient but worthwhile workflow. Similar to working on a four track in that way, sometimes I appreciate these processes. When I record on four track it can be incredibly time consuming as I record and rerecord the same parts over and over and have to rewind each time to make sure it's right. Eventually you are left with weird little blips and mistakes, which I kind of enjoy. There is something nice about doing things this way.

When I started Windkey I wanted to do a release of Dreamspell Athenaeum in small numbers. I also had a release (the first Woodland Spells album) that was sort of close to Keys to Oneiria in a lot of ways but inexplicably different. Woodland Spells and KtO come from similar places for sure, though Woodland Spells explores more of the verdant portals and the most remote magical pockets within our world.

"Windkey" as a name comes from Earthsea which of course is what Fogweaver is inspired by. But I also liked this as a way to imagine each tape as a key to a new portal, bringing you somewhere new and magical in its own way. This has taken shape in many ways as Windkey has grown and various projects of mine have been collected under this banner. I kind of keep it open ended to explore all kinds of ideas, but generally I prefer to keep it on the lofi side, or at least on the spontaneous side (Athshean for instance isn't always lofi, but all of that material is recorded in a singular take and thematically has some inspiration from magical realism and some similarly abstract ideas). Dusklight has grown to explore a variety of things from meditation to the Neverending Story and other fantastical stories and ideas.

So Windkey is similar to KtO in its approach of spontaneity, the abstract, the lofi, and the ideas of portals to other worlds.. sometimes fantastic, sometimes depressive, sometimes sinister.

ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ: Finally, KtO and Windkey have a strong DIY vibe, and it's clear that it's an important part of those projects. Would you like to go into more details about the DIY side of these projects?

Evergreen: So yeah as I mentioned I think the DIY sort of ethos is at the core of what I do for both of these things. It all kind of embraces the simplest workflows, often inconvenient but always tactile and worthwhile. I like inconvenient processes sometimes. I also really like trying to get away from staring at screens when I can. Working on music and jcards without always having to stare at my computer is much more inspiring to me overall. I love the process of making things simply, spontaenously and all by hand. Dubbing each tape individually is a pain, but it is so worth it in the end. Same thing with cutting and folding the jcards. And same thing with rewinding my four track over and over because I didn't get the take exactly as I wanted it to be. It is all kind of meditative in its own way, because you have to constantly be mindful of the fragility of what you are working with and/or not messing up your spontaneous all-in-one take music. I don't mind some blips and mistakes here and there, but occasionally you will be 10 minutes into a live take and make a big mistake that doesn't feel right putting out. So you have to rewind and start over. It is incredibly annoying and sometimes I question my own sanity doing this stuff haha, but there really is something about these processes that is very grounding to me and helps me through some really tough times.

ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ: I'm so grateful for your replies, and am looking forward to all the magic you'll bring into this world with your next projects.

ᚼᛁᛆᚱᛐᛆᚿᛋ, April 2024