American imprint Past Inside the Present are releasing two interrelated recordings by producer 36 (Dennis Huddleston) simultaneously, starting with the compilation album The Lower Lights. Made between 2018-19 this set of ten tracks which is offered in three vinyl colors and other formats. The familiar sound is curvy rising-from-the-ashes ambient with a tinge of shades of gray. Its a celestial intersection of long chord cadences. His clean full-breadth mix has become more increasingly commercial over the years, especially exemplified on the opening two tracks here, slick and air-tight – with all the intonation you’d come to expect from a modern day conceptual science fiction record.
The prolific synthesizer whiz churns up lively atmospheres just shy of techno (Midnight Helix). I’m reminded of the production style of someone like Stuart Price, or other new generation wave wielders willing to bring a fusion of mood that doesn’t shy from the mechanics, or its ability to be as curvaceous in the process. As my ear is guided through, the title cut is where his sound comes to a certain fruition for my taste. It’s just slightly pulled back with an awkward build, showing a slight vulnerable side amidst such sharply defined corners.
Another tact is expressed on Through The Prism, layers of bouncy melancholic rhythms meet a palette of colorful tones. Taut rubbery chords, meandering synths soaring, and a solid low end – its neither here nor there, but in this light is of benefit as this lucid feeling of being in limbo. The rest of the album finishes with a continuing flow of silky ambient textures, especially the toylike ending that shifts into a midway ‘Fairlight symphony’ via Tempora.
On the tape Beneath The Lower Lights we almost pick up where we left off, with that symphonic feel, although the atmosphere on Ametsa seems a little darker and more intensified. Here we have nine tracks, and none of them remixes from the previous album, more of a continuation from a much larger roster of tracks that were edited down to a smaller number for release. The beats enter in stages on Dead Satellites, birthed into a soft mix of burnished synths, though I feel strangely lost here, it’s somewhat a universal sound.
Huddleston must have been a fan of all the shoegazer bands of the 90s as there are inflections everywhere (Find You, A Gentle Dystopia and the lovely closer – Signing Off). Though compared to the previous, The Lower Lights, I find this a slight bit too homogeneous and a tinge formulaic (Eternal Blue, Origin Beach). There are highlights like Tokyo Loop Line which incorporates this stimulating balance between subdued noises and a strident, bright and light melody that uses a smart ascending synth structure that sounds right out of Blade Runner.