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Kyle Bobby Dunn: Ways of Meaning

img  Tobias Fischer

Ways of Meaning, the sixth release of Canadian electronic composer Kyle Bobby Dunn, is the sort of mesmerizing, slow motion fare that exists in the misty nether region between active and passive listening. The album opens with “Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake,” a hazy, ambient piece constructed of a descending scale fragment. As the composition progresses, the tones sustain over one another, building ambient swells of consonances and dissonances. The track sets the tone for the album, which is largely constructed of deceptively simple repetitions that slowly expand to billowing sonic clouds.

“Canyon Meadows,” for example, is basically a single chordal motive repeated over and over, gaining momentum through ascending bass tones and subtle shifts of overtones. The texture is so mesmerizingly cinematic, however, that the piece’s seven minutes manage to maintain intrigue without a single true harmonic change. Similarly, it’s hard to identify much that “happens” in “New Pures.” Sustained organ-like notes undergo nearly imperceptible timbral changes over a four minute period, slowly swelling in volume as harmonies swell and recede faintly in the background. But again, the music manages to envelop you so that by the time the piece’s low-frequency hum grinds to a halt, you’re left wondering what just happened to the last few minutes.

Ways of Meaning does have a couple of more active moments—at least relative to the glacial pace that dominates the album. In the second half of the epic, 15-minute “Movement for the Completely Fucked,” faint counterlines emerge from their hazy synth bedding, intertwining themselves around increasingly dense drones. In the composition’s last minutes, the music mushrooms to a blissful, all-encompassing churn of moving lines.

I wouldn’t recommend that one operate heavy machinery to Ways of Meaning.  This is tranquil, nuanced music that moves imperceptibly from foreground to background and back again.  At the same time, Dunn’s mastery of texture and shape—slow, spine-chilling builds and subtle undercurrents—elicits a powerful emotional and psychological effect. You may find your mind wandering to the music, but during moments of active listening, you certainly won’t be thinking about anything else.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Kyle Bobby Dunn
Homepage: Desirepath Recordings

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