36: Seconds & Forever
Mystic & Quantum Records

Dennis Huddleston typically issues his 36 material on his own 3six Recordings imprint, but for whatever reason his latest venture appears on Mystic & Quantum Records. 3six's loss is clearly Mystic & Quantum's gain, however, as Seconds & Forever must be one of the most perfectly realized productions by the UK-based ambient artist to date. And that's saying something, considering the exceptionally high quality level of the 36 discography.

Issued on twelve-inch white vinyl in a silk-screen sleeve (250 copies), the release, curiously enough, presents two identically timed eighteen-minute parts. Little information accompanies the release except for a few lines of enigmatic text (“We stood on the edge of forever / One final dream into time / A silent voice in an empty room / The numbers; We never truly knew”), though that in itself is nothing new, Huddleston generally preferring to let the music speak for itself.

And that it does magnificently. He demonstrates an incredible degree of command over the material, which for want of a better label might be called space ambient. His shaping of the music, the pace at which he has it unfold, his handling of dynamics—all such aspects are masterfully resolved. Par for the ambient course, synthesizers and keyboard-generated sounds predominate, and the music often inhabits an expansive realm of galaxial scope.

Awash in synth atmospheres, organ glisten, and softly radiant melodies, the serene opening part unfurls in slow-motion, Huddleston seemingly sensitive to the arc of the long-form setting every step of the way. It isn't static either: after a carefully administered twelve-minute build, the music momentarily intensifies before dropping away, only to resume its course with a series of string washes and starlit twinkles.

Pitched at a slightly more aggressive level, part two shimmers and radiates incandescently, its chords and melodic patterns collectively telling a tale of melancholy and yearning. Here too a marked change-up occurs, this one a breakdown eleven minutes in that sees the material gradually resuming its forward march and growing ever more majestic until a hushed coda reinstates the serenity of the opening part. Throughout the release, no choice feels arbitrary, no sound unnecessary, and one comes away from the recording awed by the artistry on display.

May 2016