36 – Memories In Widescreen (2010)

Last week, 36 posted that he had found 3 promo copies of the original picture disc pressing of this release, one with a limited run of only 250 pressings. Fearing I was already too late I went to the purchase page and found, to my surprise, one remaining. So here we are, spinning the very, very last copy of Memories In Widescreen.

36 has always had drone in his albums, it’s a staple component of them. Hypersona had delicate wisps covered in rhythms and samples, Hollow brought them to the fore a little more alongside brooding loops; Memories in Widescreen is almost entirely drone alone (heh). Opener “Before Time” crawls slowly, loops gently, submerging us in a richly detailed fuzz. It moves quickly into perhaps my favourite 36 track of all; “After Time”, a piece that sounds like it could be looped forever and never get dull. Distorted fragments of voice flutter in and out of of the slowly overlapping, tired, sad drones. Before and After Time, the lonely emptiness of both of those places; one where everything is yet to happen and we cannot see it, the other where everything has already happened and we don’t want to see it again.

There’s a brief pause as I get up to flip the record and admire the artwork; each side has a unique, water inspired image. “Drifta” blows in softly on what sounds like a light breeze, with such a minimal presence that would impress even Thomas Koner. The most minute snippets of voices can be heard buried beneath its wash and the flaws in my system made known as distortion creeps in. “Drowning” follows it up, another track following this tired, confused and depressed theme. As the drone gets heavy and oppressive (sound muffled underwater), delicate little fragments seep in as the light shimmers off the water’s surface above our sinking head. Slowly, this eternal moment slips away as consciousness fades into “Disappear”, relatively more optimistic than previous tracks and really bringing 36 back to familiar sonic territory with a Hollow-like sound, with “piano” now accompanying the drone. Does this represent the belief that with death there comes relief? Possibly.

There is a longer pause again as this time the discs are switched to get to Side C and “Lucid”, “Memories In Widescreen” and “Melt”. I’ve always believed that in ambient, track names are crucial, that they help to pad out the story (I just broke my onscreen keyboard, lame!). Throughout the album this has been true, and it continues here; “Lucid”‘s optimism and clarity in its shining melodies, “Memory In Widescreen”‘s uplifting drone as the past is wistfully recalled and played back, remembering all those tiny little moments and rendering them larger than life (on the big screen), while “Melt” is the comedown, the fugue following the realisation that those moments will never be relived, the tones becoming chaotic, almost angry at the thought, before being followed by acceptance.

We now approach our last side and the story is almost over. “Slide” has curious electronic intrusions, what sound like harps and xylphones, brief sparkles over the unrelenting, unwavering drone note that stretches out depressingly over the course of the track. “Vesl” proceeds fairly uninspiringly into our final track, “Revert Time”. Continuing along the same train of thought as the first two tracks, having explored the past and not accepting the circumstances of the present during the main sequence of the album, 36 wants us (or himself) to try and turn back the clock to a happier and more carefree time, a time when things were better and we didnt feel so bad. Interestingly we actually have a real woman talking on this track: “Revert time, (go?) and see” repeats as the walls of drone and white noise rise up, drowning her out before slipping quickly away into silence.

Memories In Widescreen tells a tragic story, yet one that is beautifully rendered through the medium that is drone; it is one of loss, guilt, sadness, possibly unfairness, and ever present human desire to go back in time and fix our flawed pasts.