36 – Trance Anthems For A Sunken Generation (3six Recordings, 2024)

I have a morbid fascination with Twitter (X, whatever). It is a despair hole, a nihilist’s dream-space where the most miserable people on the web come to make other people more miserable elsewhere. I appreciate it for its daily memery, and general insanity since the Musk takeover, but it is not a good place.

In many ways it’s not much different from other social media platforms in the era of Web 3.0, with its bubbles of political binary extremism spilling over one another in intractable debate, though its snippets and speed seem to relay unhappiness through its audience much faster than anywhere else. And the thing is, not only does it feel like a sad echo of the real world, it also feels like most of its userbase would prefer to be elsewhere too, but here they are, stuck in the doomscroll cycle, staring at the nightmare machine.

This access to the thoughts and lives of others in such profound and numerous ways is a large part of the newer generation’s conundrum with fulfilment, and existential burden, the access to the many lives of others and the many problems we share growing every day. It is hard to feel happy, or grateful, or fulfilled, knowing that there could be more, hard to feel hopeful about the future in the face of growing international unrest and environmental decay and the constant battery of “things that are problematic”.

This isn’t Dennis’ first flirt with struggle: indeed, previous 36 works have focused upon bleakness quite a bit, from the Blade Runnerian dystopia of quiet Fade to Grey or the depression era pandemic spaces of Colours in the Dark; even the dreamlike sophomore Hollow wove a tale of atmospheric brooding darkness. But Trance Anthems is his most overt “fuck you” so far in sound and scale.

Never straying too far from the familiar, it’s caught somewhere between styles, capturing Dennis’ usual idiosyncratic character, hints of Hecker’s grinding organ works, a smidgen perhaps of Irisarri’s boiling electronica from his eco-terrorism period ala Solastalgia, and more. It’s hard to put a pin on a map anywhere as 36 weaves elegantly one moment to the next with his own unique voice wrought such as it is with the agonies of him and his contemporaries.

For example, “On Your Knees”, with its pounding noir synthetics and probing lights, searching and jabbing at weaknesses with its broken Synth-Wave aesthetic, wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Power Glove record. Opener “Tear You Apart” could almost have been a more modest offcut from Ben Frost’s AURORA in its interminable electronic crescendoes of escalating violence. Meanwhile interior pair “Collapse” I & II rotate to hum and grind in squealing electronic gears caught in descent, never able to keep speed against the rushing future as the latter begins to jar and grind in failure – personal, spiritual, economic…

Is there hope amidst the uncertainty and world weariness? Penultimate “Lights in the Comedown” almost possesses some kind of counter-revolutionary force, synth blats turning over the dronier undercurrents as the physical mind comes up for air from the digital sea, tilting into closing “Destroy Silence” in its wet flanging 90s synths and cruising sustained chords that carve out an obscure but traceable path to somewhere that could look like a brighter tomorrow.

This is certainly Dennis’ boldest and most dense record to date, and yet despite its comparatively “big” sound it’s definitely not one that feels out of place or out of line/character. If anything, it’s a natural progression from the more ruminant moments in his career, a lashing out at the unfairnesses and injustices in real space while there’s still time to do such a thing. It’s heady and impassioned, and another slash in a long line of papercuts against this damaged, digital world we’ve seemingly resigned to collectively ruining our psyches.

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