In retrospect, the emergence of a new, techno-related alias from Dennis Huddleston could have been predicted without very much difficulty. Over the last couple of years, an at times subtle and at other times not so subtle rhythm dimension has found its way into a few of his 36 productions, such that on The Infinity Room, for example, the late-2016 set that appeared on A Strangely Isolated Place (rather than on his own 3six Recordings imprint), “Room 2” disrupted the album's melodic ambient character with a booming, kick drums-heavy exercise in clubby techno.

SYNE picks up where “Room 2” left off, with the new release bringing with it a new label, also called SYNE, that Huddleston intends to use as an outlet for techno- and dancefloor-related material. Lovers of his 36 work needn't worry: it's there in SYNE, too, though now retooled for the nightclub. Of course, Huddleston being the artist that he is, none of the release's eight tracks is a lazy paste-up of ambient synth patterns and 4/4 beats; instead, each one is an artfully produced five- to six-minute mini-opus that advances dynamically through multiple episodes and includes build-ups and drop-outs. Midway through the fourth track, for instance, layers of beat elements gradually fade away until nothing but the tune's lustrous melodic core remains, after which the rhythm details re-emerge to power the track to its conclusion.

With tracks prosaically titled “SYNE 1,” “SYNE 2,” and so on, the album struts into position with a radiant opening salvo before moving onto the comparatively earthier “SYNE 2,” where silken strings and reverberant synths resound alongside the swirl and swish of hi-hats, claps, and pumping kick drums. “SYNE 7” captivates with a stark, chilly beauty that's reminiscent of the kind of material Chain Reaction issued during its glorious mid- to late-‘90s period, whereas the beats drop out entirely during the closing track, a move that makes the melancholy synthesizer etude feel more like a 36 production than anything else.

While wistfulness does permeate the material, SYNE ultimately feels more celebratory than resigned, especially when the tracks are sparked with such pronounced rhythmic energy. At a time when the word dystopia has never been more ubiquitous, Huddleston's new project feels more utopian in its implicit belief in the promise of technological development. That said, some degree of darkness does occasionally seep in, such that the affirmation conveyed by the classic techno of “SYNE 3” is offset by the dread-fueled foreboding of “SYNE 5.” On a final positive note, at eight tracks the release is compact but pleasingly so. There's no filler, and the pieces themselves, tailor-made for a double-vinyl presentation, are neither too short nor too long.

September 2017