36: Dream Tempest
3six Recordings

Some modern-day producers are prolific, in some cases astonishingly so; others, however, release material less frequently, which makes the appearance of a new recording all the more special for being so rare an event. A pattern of sorts has developed in the case of 36 (three-six) with UK-based ambient artisan Dennis Huddleston emerging approximately every two years with a new collection of exquisitely crafted material. Dream Tempest, his sixth studio album, should be required listening for any aspiring producer hoping to join the upper ranks of the genre field, even though the fifty-one-minute recording's excellence could also scare away novices by setting the bar so high.

Huddleston provides little information about the gear used to create the material, the producer content, one presumes, to let the material speak for itself. That being said, keyboard sounds dominate, and not just synthesizers but organ, too; if I'm not mistaken, field recordings also surface in a few isolated moments, though understatedly. It's an album of many moods, from starry-eyed (the title track, for example) and playful (“Hyperbox”) to wistful and melancholy (“Sun Riders”), and in certain cases titles communicate much about the content. In one such instance, “Neon Sunset” evokes the image of a serene beachside setting, its calm a stark change from the mayhem of the daylight hours. Elsewhere he bolsters the nostalgic dimension of his music by incorporating vinyl surface crackle into “Enshrine Exit” and makes a credible stab at Boards of Canada-styled material in “Perfect Numbers.”

Huddleston has an undeniable gift for creating instrumental material that's both stirringly beautiful and packs a powerful emotional punch, as exemplified by the deeply affecting “Tired” and “Always,” a haunting, ten-minute exercise in elegiac slow-burn that's arguably the album's peak. In his own words, “I don't want to write music that is discarded when the next big trend or genre blows up. I want to create something that you can listen to ten to twenty years later and still feel a connection to.” He shouldn't worry: to these ears, Dream Tempest certainly sounds like music that will transcend its time, and I expect it'll satisfy as much in 2030 as it does now. The recording transcends its era in another sense, too, as tracks such as “Airglow” and “Play” exude such a classic ambient quality they feel as if their date of origin could be the ‘70s as much as today. All era considerations aside, Dream Tempest impresses as music of extraordinary poise and refinement.

August-September 2014