36 – Sine Dust (EP, 2015)


There’s a certain romance to space and space travel; I’m sure that for as long as humanity has been around to look at the stars in the sky there have been people who have dreamed of being up there and exploring them, tackling the last great frontier and exploring the many wonders of the Universe. It’s long been, and remains still, an ambitious and in many ways impossible goal; previous 36 effort Sun Riders hinted at that in its childhood innocence and initially unconstrained star-gazing as it filled its passages with wist and what-could-have-beens, but humanity does explore the grandeur of space vicariously through the adventures of the probes and satellites we spit into it, and Sine Dust tracks this romanticised yet lonely journey through the emptiness of space in a sonically and conceptually tight fashion as it latches onto Voyager 1, our most distant explorer.

Appropriately enough it opens with “Sun Riders Part II”, a piece that maintains those slight and creeping desires of its former but gives the idiosyncratic synth lines a little warmth and meatiness, a certain textural depth that adds a little more dreaminess and whimsicality to proceedings, its sparse constructions casting our mind out to those far-flung human ambassadors as they hurtle outwards towards the stars, humbled at the emptiness and vastness that surrounds these fragile constructions. “Drift Orbit” is a little different but still retains much of the same character as the opener; the synths still as rich and haunting as they were previously but instilling a certain sense of melancholia alongside their romantic edge that 36 seems to imbibe in his work often. There’s a certain precision and deliberate engagement at work here, the scientific technicalities at play as witnessed through the deliberate and strong placement of the instrumentation, but amidst the complexity of it all there’s a sense of tugging wonderment, as though we’re watching some alien world slip by us through a porthole: science and unquantifiable emotional or spiritual aspects inevitably meeting along the way.

The title track follows it up swiftly and even more passionately, underlying the stronger and more active synth lines with a luxurious drone undercurrent that wills the track along, this urge that encourages our fragile barge onwards and to keep holding on for a little longer as it slips out of range and out of power. In a beautiful twist we’re also complemented with whispery female vocals that float across the void, the faded sounds of a distant civilisation carrying their thoughts and wishes, their hopes and dreams, out to beyond the stars. “Whisper…Saturn…Zero” they seem to say, but who knows and what does it matter, their presence is delicious and emotionally charged regardless. Finally closer “Beyond The Heliosphere” arrives with the promise of true deep space and uncharted territory, the passage of our capsule beyond the safe harbours of our Solar System and the Sun’s protective force into interstellar space and the great unknown, populated appropriately with distantly overlapping drone sequences and fuzzy waves of soft noise, the imperceptible turbulence at the helioshock making way for the cold, silent and eternal expanse that lies ahead.

It’s a rich and touching journey that begins and ends with a dream, our exploits and understanding of the great beyond still confined to machines, machines that have seen beauties here in our system that no human has ever witnessed, and ones that will perhaps venture deeper and see strange and wonderful things even further outside the realm of possibility of any human seeing them. It’s a sad and lonely task we’ve set them in our stead, and 36 seems to be the man best suited to create the necessarily pained yet ethereally enchanting music to represent these endeavours of ours on their journey; a really touching and very well defined EP that may have some of the year’s best album art to boot. A must listen.