36: Lithea
3six Recordings

Lithea presents seventy-eight minutes of ultra-immersive ambient dreamscaping courtesy of UK soundsculptor extraordinaire Dennis Huddleston under the 36 (pronounced three-six) name. The recording is the final part of the 36 triptych album series that began with Hypersona and Hollow. Whether that means Huddleston has now retired 36 or is simply gearing up for some fresh new project isn't known (to this listener at least) so for the time being the best one can do is give one's undivided attention to Lithea, which more than rewards one's doing so. It's a generous collection of eighteen tracks that range between forty seconds and eleven minutes in length. Track titles are well-chosen, of which three in particular stand out in terms of direct reference: “Cocoon,” for alluding to the music's tendency to wrap itself around the listener; and “Susurrus” (a word that means soft murmuring or whisper) and “Dreamscape,” for capturing the music's overall character.

No details about instrumentation or gear accompany the release so one is left to guess at the sound sources, perhaps the implication being that Huddleston would rather the listener focus on the material in its pure form without details about equipment getting in the way of that reception. Regardless, field recordings and samples play a recurring role (in the opening “Clear,” with its “36…36…36” announcement, and “Radio” and “World After April”) and guitar, choir, organ, and other keyboard sounds also surface. But if there's a dominant sound conjured by the album, it's that of a vaporous cloud that, in a representative track such as “Reunion,” expands to massive proportions. The material is deeply textured (as the tape hiss cloaking the slow drift of “1983” attests) but, most importantly, often stirringly beautiful, as evidenced when dream-like tones softly cascade and whistle through “One” and “Levitate.” Though Lithea is squarely within the ambient tradition, it's not one-dimensional, as Huddleston is perfectly willing to change things up when a track such as “Seance” adds a subtle beat pattern to its glimmering melodic content. Also consistent with the ambient tradition, the album's mood is generally melancholy and the tone wistful, with the listener advised to surrender to the music's pull in order to benefit most from the experience.

February 2013