Saturday, 5 May 2012

Kyle Bobby Dunn - A Young Person’s Guide To Kyle Bobby Dunn (2010)

Based in Brooklyn, Canadian-born sound artist and composer Kyle Bobby Dunn creates music at the complete opposite of the sprawling urban metropolis he lives in. Working primarily from source recordings of pianos, guitars, strings and brass, Dunn processes them into vast minimal forms where sounds are blended into dense dronescapes to create superbly evocative atmospheric pieces.

Recorded over a period of four years, during which Dunn explored a variety of set ups and sound sources, the twelve pieces making up this double album occupy a common atmospheric space, somewhere between stylised drone exploration and the outer reaches of processed modern classical compositions. While Dunn’s soundscapes appear pretty static, they are far more expressive than simple drones and have a much wider emotional scope. The compositions vary greatly in length throughout, ranging from the short and sweet 'Last Minute Jest' which clocks in at just over two minutes, to the sprawling seventeen and a half minute album opener 'Butel', greatly impacting on the level and extent of the processing applied for each piece.

Dunn also plays on the hue of his pieces to give them a distinctive character. There is a sense of uniformity running through this record, yet he alternates between rather muffled sound spaces and more open, vibrant moments.

Behind the apparent stillness of the music and the stasis of soundscapes caught in dense fog lies a refinement which gives this record a particular resonance. Indeed, if the original sound sources are at best, barely discernible, Dunn’s heavy processing still occasionally leaves off a thin film of reality. This is particularly true with the guitar and piano textures which percolate through at irregular intervals throughout the record. The closing track 'The Nightjar' is built from guitar chords which are, for the majority of the piece, stretched and ground down into tiny particles to rather stunning effect but gradually revert back to their original state toward the end. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this corresponds with the appearance of the first clearly recognisable human voice of the record, as if Dunn was easing his audience back into reality.

On paper, A Young Person’s Guide can sound like a daunting, almost academic listen, yet Kyle Bobby Dunn’s beautifully fluid compositions are totally and utterly absorbing. A massive recommendation for listeners of Stars of the Lid and other such drone luminaries.

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