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Notule's 'Cantus Circaeus' is the perfect Halloween soundtrack 

“Cantus Circæus,” the new collection of goth-synth soundscapes from Jim Shaul, aka Notule, may have been released in August, but October is the perfect time to dive head-first into the creepy ambience of these instrumentals.

If the medieval period had an equivalent to the steampunk movement, “Cantus Circæus” would be its soundtrack. Over the course of eight tracks, each more than four minutes long, the listener moves through a dark, yet serene labyrinth of sound.

The keyboard sounds seem purposefully outdated, and the resulting moods vaguely suggest the occult. A sense of solitude permeates the entire album. Song titles such as “Alchemical Lore Forever Lost,” “Obsequiem Sylvanus,” and “Index Librorum Prohibitorum” underscore a rich, forbidden fantasy world looming behind the music.


Compared to Notule’s previous work, “Amongst the Averns” — an ambitious album that seemed to try too hard to be a video game soundtrack — “Cantus Circæus” has smoother transitions, a more sensitive approach to timbre, and less of a cartoonish affectation.

According to Notule’s Bandcamp page, the music from “Cantus Circæus” was inspired in part by the life and work of Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century friar who embraced a heliocentric model of an infinite universe that might sustain life outside our own planet. He also rejected several principal Catholic doctrines, and was eventually burned at the stake as a heretic. It’s difficult to hear the direct musical correlation to his life, but the sensibilities of the sounds are more important than the narrative, and the sensibilities can be brooding, hopeful, and at times, both.


A low, sneering synth on “Through Aether Propelled” is thoroughly menacing, but it’s tempered by incoming feathery textures and bell-like tones. “Wet Ink on Velum” sounds like an impromptu chapel service for a fringe sect, complete with harp and handbell choir.

To call this music esoteric is an understatement. Still, it’s not just for devotees of Magic: The Gathering and D&D players. If you’re looking for music you can use to greet trick-or-treaters this Halloween, Notule makes for the perfectly spooky choice.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.

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