Kyle Bobby Dunn’s epic double album ‘A Young Person’s Guide To’ is a beautiful confession on the transgressions of angry loneliness.
The album’s drones and soft textures are so alienated from reality that there isn’t a trace of functionality to this music outside of allowing it to permeate into your psyche and literally becoming the record.
As such, it’s impossible to listen to it in any sort of company or even with any other preoccupation whatsoever, a possible exception being a silent film looped to match the albums 2 hour running time (but then that goes with anything). So, what does it all mean?
It’s usual to say something more declarative in the opening paragraph of a review, a good strong sentence about what the album is and why it’s worth buying, perhaps even with a witty referential pun or a muted expletive, but such a beginning would be incongruous to any potential listener who followed on and actually purchased the release.
Musically, the album traces the normal ambient parabola as set down by Messrs. Fripp and Eno. Conversely though, this record is so effective in its emotional reduction that it makes it specific statements in ways that cast its forebears as wildly rapturous by comparison.
The opening piece, and they are all pieces, works, muted symphonies, or sound sculptures, ‘Butel’ is a slow and staggeringly long exegesis on distance and seems an unlikely, potentially uninviting, way to start an album.
Trebuchet: What’s the lasting memory you have of her and which sense is strongest?
Kyle: It’s a whole feeling of nothingness. Some might feel the song sounds sad or like it’s about longing. It’s really not, though it’s certainly about distance. I wanted the weight of time and intricate change to have a voice in it. That’s why it’s so long I suppose.
But then (rather than being about the person strictly) the only reason it’s a song is because it represents a certain emptiness. Everything on here is more about me than anyone else. I guess I’m definitely lacking something.
Trebuchet: Are you investigating the variations of ’emptiness’ with all your songs?
Kyle: To a certain degree. Though, songs like ‘There is no end to your beauty’ and ‘Bonaventure’s finest hour’ are songs with a lot of fullness in my mind.
Trebuchet: When you say fullness, do mean from a production sense or from a compositionally emotive sense?
Kyle: Sound and structure need to coincide with the emotive sense in songs, but are not always the same thing. I produced the album at home with limited means, so some might say things sound thin on the album, but that’s really how I feel about sound.
Kyle: I start with sound and try and reflect against it. If it reminds me of something or takes me somewhere I go with it, that’s where the track names come from usually. Everything just very naturally or intuitively comes from my mind’s time templates.
Careful listening is still most important to me and my work. I’ve never been that interested in sheer technical composing or complexity in music. That might make my music a bit boring to some, but it’s ultra personal at the same time. We simply react to sound we like with our brain, that’s more or less how music works. Whatever reaches whatever brain cells are left that is…
Trebuchet: Some artists make a conscious decision to affect their audiences in a particular and specific way. The audience is in a sense the canvas that they work on…
Kyle: Yeah the audience is certainly not a canvas for me, there other are musicians and artists solely out there to please the people.
Trebuchet: So what do you get out of music?
Kyle: A sense of release and time storage. I can reflect back on time and memory easier.
Unlike some people I like to remember, and not just the good times. It’s important in developing myself both as a person and composer. I think everyone feels the same way about memory, maybe unconsciously though.
Track by track the album moves between massive broad horizons of melancholy, remembrance and occasional sections of muted elation, generally traced using the standard palette of soft pads, treated strings and recurring textural samples.
What makes Kyle Bobby Dunn unique in his oeuvre is the specificity of each track, for someone so apparently dour and self-deprecating there is a real confidence here which maintains focus over what are admittedly really really long pieces.
In stand out tracks like Promenade (see also; A Tributary… and The Nightjar) where distant rumblings underpin extended string workouts you get a sense of visual place amongst the meditations on emotion and this is where he succeeds best.