Remastered and reissued 3 years after its original release is 36’s debut ambient LP, Hypersona (and it’s about time!)
36 is my favourite ambient artist at the moment. Ok, he’s also one of my favourite artists full stop; his pristine, home-made ambient is a joy to listen to and in the hands of the best engineers in the business his debut LP is back sounding sharper and better than ever before ready for its first, and possibly only, record pressing out in July.
Pigeonholing 36’s work into a category is tricky; we can safely say it’s ambient but stylistically it’s actually very original. If I had to draw comparisons (a difficult notion at 4am), there are definitely Tim Hecker and Celer overtones here. “Signal” opens out to fragmented shortwave radio transmissions and static, paving the way for the rest of the album which also features much of the same blissful hum and samples in that Hecker-esque way, but one that is not really repeated in later albums.
“2249” is another short track, introducing us to the move rhythmic side of 36’s work with gentle xylophonic beats not too reminiscent of the wind-up toys that play music. We can’t dawdle, however, because the album is already pushing forwards right into the speed-bumps of the devastatingly beautiful “Inside”. This piece was my introduction to 36; glacial drone pulses and quavers in the air while the somewhat clichéd rain drips in the background, perfectly encapsulating the wistful air of someone caught indoors on a rainy day.
Hypersona also harbours a “darker”, more melancholic side which begins to come out as we reach the halfway mark. “The Box” shows the improvement of the remaster over the original very strongly; the rustling and crackling in the background feels crisp and sharp, piercing, while those delicate xylophonic tinkles reappear alongside deep bass and unsettling vocals, the rhythms unfolding before transgressing back to drone. Creepy, distorted voices (which appear again in the title track) introduce “Nephyr”, a track perfect for late-night listening with its fuzzy drone. Its seemingly endless, multi-textural crescendo is as soothing as it is unnerving.
“Beacon”‘s toy-box piano returns us once more to the stripped back gentle rhythms of before, floating carefully on a bed of obscured white noise, a temporary distraction to the crushing boredom of being trapped inside as the rain pours. To counterbalance it is the title track “Hypersona”; this curious juxtaposition is almost like a flash-forward, a leap from a childhood memory to a more adult, more mature musical sound, choosing to leave behind the toy-box and pick up the computer to produce his creations.
“Juliet” revives the snippets of shortwave samples from earlier; the woman in the sample rattles off letters in the phonetic alphabet, almost lost in the distortion and waves of shimmering drone. “Dream Window” is once again that antidote to 36’s melancholic tangents; crickets chirp as the toy-box rolls back in with its naive optimism and delicate melodies before fading straight into the penultimate stunner “Forever”. It builds its glacial drone layers carefully, slowly, effortlessly. “Forever” is wracked with tension and emotion, sometimes gliding, sometimes progressing abrasively. Bass pulses separate the track into distinct sequences or phases; soft fades at either end and rough in the middle, perhaps some coarse metaphor for life?
Well, 36 gives us time to consider it, leaving 30 seconds of silence at the end of the track.; crushing nothingness following our brief foray in life into death. “Untitled” is the parting shot; a short, distorted memory fragment of lo-fi piano floats in on one last burst of neural activity before being whisked away again as they power down for the last time.
Hypersona may well be a debut made by a small-time bedroom artist who’s best efforts were still to come, but that doesn’t stop it from being just goddamn excellent. Like all truly great ambient there are numerous interpretations and bundled emotions that make it a listening “experience”. So pleased and excited to see this make its way to vinyl at long last (I bought the transparent edition).