Dream Tempest, the new album from self-publishing veteran 36, is like a space-machine made to daydream in, immersing the listener in the absolute darkness of an electronic sci-fi soundscape that gracefully glides into emotional nebulae of distinct colors. The tones slowly join and disjoint as a choreography in zero gravity, signaling a vastness that knows only the boundaries of sorrow, finding in its moments of concrete focus a joy that grants the shock of the infinite a meaning that spells hope. In a way, it is sky-sighting at its very best, the slight sensation of utopia running under the skin as the clouds part and let us see, beyond them, the imaginary trail of rockets and satellites as they signal both our utter insignificance and our amazing potential; night falls and the world goes silent, but even in the most obsidian of visions we still know the names of the stars, we can hear them moving in the music they reflect upon the stones, scintillating. If 36’s past albums pieced together a nightmare of fiery drones, Dream Tempest throws them all adrift into a soundless sunstorm, shining with the sadness of a nova that boldly proclaims an end and a beginning that constantly looks towards the void and finds a heartfelt fantasy to call its own.
Such a fantasy is harmonic, sounds growing into each other to form a whole that, like the countdown that segues “Enshrine Exit” into “Hyperbox”, anticipates an emotional state yet to combust, provoking the listener to process it as excitement as much as fear, a fulfilment in itself as much as a plain lack. It is a harmony that radiates expectation, letting us project ourselves onto it, perceiving its shooting stars as omens that speak perhaps of horror, but also of something incredibly pleasurable… a Dream Tempest, in all its heavenly commotion, is a sublime gaze into ourselves, ‘out there’ as an essential venture into neuronal constellations and the mapping of a solitary cosmos.
This is a voyage into space that, ever since the start, emits the feeling of a long, indefinite journey that is meant to question the very ground our feet move upon. After all, to classify this work into a genre seems misguided, even if it often sounds like a drone. Its elements are wider, and its scope is much more emotional than most drones, drawing it closer to the kind of music made by Kyle Bobby Dunn or Stars of the Lid, albeit more exploratory of the purely ‘electro’ side of a beatless, relatively regular construction made, nevertheless, to grip the body. 36’s approach drives its point in a couple minutes, throwing the listener right into the midst of the nebula, with only the dim lights of spacecraft buttons and distant quasars to illuminate a flow of thoughts that has detached from the noises of industry and nature. Dream Tempest is an album made for listening on the verge of sleep or at the first signs of dawn, drawing the body into a state that is simultaneously attentive and lost, an ambivalence that, like an astronaut’s leap out of history, produces the musical shadow of a self-knowledge born from hope and doubt.
In the end, this album is perhaps 36’s best yet, comprising years of work that show a comprehensive understanding of emotional complexity. It grows vaster with each listen, more strange and familiar, as life-affirming and life-denying as space itself. Go ahead, stay awake all night, put this music on, and let yourself get lost among the stars. (David Murrieta)