It seems we have all been living through a revival of the 1980s the past couple of years. TV shows like Stranger Things dominate current pop-culture, and in 2017 we can expect a new Blade Runner film. One of the best films of the current decade, Mad Max: Fury Road, is a sequel to one of the most successful film franchises of the 1980s. Music as well is looking back to this era for inspiration. Synthwave/chillwave is highly influenced by the sights and sounds of the ‘80s, whether it be the haunting soundtracks composed by Vangelis and John Carpenter, or the neon colours of Miami Vice and Tron. I can’t say I am a fan of that decade (shoulder pads, mullets and ‘80s pop music just doesn’t do it for me), but what I can appreciate and thoroughly enjoy are artists taking the best elements from the decade and giving them a modern spin.
RELEASE DATE: 26 October 2016 LABEL: A Strangely Isolated Place
36 (pronounced three-six) is the brainchild of UK-based producer Dennis Huddleston. He has been putting out quality ambient and electronica albums since 2009. The Infinity Room is his latest release, a concept album of sorts that is also influenced greatly by the synth music of the 1980s. Each track on The Infinity Room represents a room, and each room is a different shade of the preceding room, with Huddleston’s studio being the starting point of an infinite number of sonic possibilities. Listening casually and with one or two playthroughs, one could be forgiven for thinking the entirety of The Infinity Room sounds the same. Huddleston limited himself to a very strict set of sounds and beats, allowing each track to ebb and flow organically, much like a stream of consciousness.
Huddleston is able to paint a wonderful, dreamy vista on The Infinity Room, one that is soaked in lo-fi static, haunting keys and driving kick drums. “Room 1” slowly lulls the listener into the The Infinity Room, like the beginning of a vivid dream. “Room 2” and “Room 3” are a devastatingly emotional one-two hit to the heart and soul, and two of the finest tracks to be found on this album. “Room 2” oozes love and loss in equal measures, and is unique from the rest of The Infinity Room for its use of a fuzzy kick-drum which sounds like the beating of a living heart. “Room 3” is haunting, utilizing Carpenter-esque keys and a driving midi hi-hat to tell a story of crisis and ultimate resolution. As we move to “Room 4” and “Room 5”, and deeper into The Infinity Room, we are greeted with more ambient, dreamy soundscapes, a limbo of sorts with no shape or form.
“Room 6” ups the emotional ante once more, being the biggest tear jerker on the album. A beautiful, solemn piece played on the keys repeats over and over, with a sea of white noise (like the sound of waves rolling onto a beach) gradually swallowing the notes of the melody whole, much in the same way that strong emotions such as love or grief are able to completely take hold of one’s own self. “Room 7”, “Room 8” and “Room 9” slow things down once more and take on a more meditative quality, sounding otherworldly at times with hints of choir-hums peppered throughout. “Room 8” is especially noteworthy for its use of a somber melody played on keys that will be stuck in your head for days. “Room 10” is the final track or “room” of The Infinity Room, presenting the very deepest recesses of this album. Rain drops and crashing waves fill out the soundscape on this one, led by a solemn and cathartic melody, leaving the listener pondering on what came before, and now what comes after. I must commend the sound production on this album, it is gorgeous from start to finish. A wonderful, warm tube-like fuzz permeates throughout the entire album. The keys are given room to ring and resonate and the kick-drums hit hard with resounding thuds. This is an audiophile’s delight of an album.
After having listened to The Infinity Room for countless weeks, I am sure that 36 is a true master of his craft. Huddleston is able to manipulate the listener’s emotions with sounds and textures that feel familiar and relatable, paying homage to the very best that the ‘80s had to offer, whilst still making every track feel ethereal and otherworldly. The Infinity Room will have all who explore its endless spaces in an emotional mess by the end of it all.