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Kyle Bobby Dunn: "A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn"

img  Tobias

It's been a busy day for the conductor and sleep has come quickly. While his body is now lying perfectly still, with only his eyes occasionally twitching in spastic cascades of synaptic r.e.m.-flashes, his mind is embarking on a wondrous journey. Slowly, he is slipping into the fantastical land of sleep, pushing through Morpheus's dream zone with drastically increased sensory awareness. Sitting in a Freudian diner, a chef called Sigmung is cooking up the most astounding menu: Violas are stretching into infinity. Pianos are splintering into molecules of sorrow and into painful memories. The reverb of gigantic Tubas and Horns is echoing in coronary cathedrals without beginning or end, while seismic String sections are disintegrating in tectonic tremors, their stranded swan song dying away in the glowing crevices of a black ho)))le. This is the most amazing thing I've ever heard, the conductor is thinking, if only I had a pen and a piece of paper to write down this music.

That very same night, Kyle Bobby Dunn is awaking from a strange dream. It is 4 A.M. He remembers frazzles and figments of music, unreal images of bizarre ensembles still imprinted on his retina. He grabs for a pen and a piece of paper and scribbles down some ideas. Then he falls asleep again. The next morning, over coffee, orange juice and an aspirin, which he chews on very slowly and almost unaware until it has become a salty white pulp, he somehow manages to decipher his shaky script: „Record complete strangers, classically trained minds“, it says, „Record in university recital halls.  Practice rooms. Museums. Ballrooms. The great outdoors. Bathroom.“ Right now, brushing his teeth and getting even more caffeine into his system seem to matter more than this confused artistic vision. Right now, too, the last thing on his mind is turning into a composer and releasing seven albums. And yet, it is going to happen with complete clarity. Things are going to fall into place and the music is going to be writing itself, as if he were driven by some invisible force.

The next five years fly by within the blink of an eye. There's an album on Kning Disc. There's a record on Sedimental. There is airplay on college radio stations, international recognition and praise. And then, finally, there's „A Young Person's Guide“, the work that seems to congenially sum up the exciting trip it's been this far: A double-disc set comprising very recent material plus almost the entire „Fervency“-release (previously only available as a digital download from the Moodgadget-label) as well as reworkings of recordings dating back to 2005, these almost two hours of music are possibly even more representative of his aesthetics than „Fragments & Compositions Of Kyle Bobby Dunn“, an earlier overview of his oeuvre. Included are short, mysterious and seemingly pitched-down Piano sketches. Long, monolithic and sensually propped-up Ambient sessions. Majestic moods. Brittle textures. Experimental developments. Almost static soundscapes. Orchestral echoes. Guitar Drones. It is a work so dense, over-the-top and imposing that two full discs of this are both too much and never enough – once you've made up your mind to take the trip, the laws of time no longer hold dominion.

What „A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn“ effectively demonstrates is that Dunn is neither an uncritical apostle of classical Ambient (as some have claimed), nor a secrete admirer of recent Drone acts (as others have suggested). On „Butel“, he builds an immersive sonic space from loose strands of warm resonance, each complementing and counterpointing what has come before. „Promenade“ (its title a possible hint at Mussorgsky's „Pictures at an Exhibition“) feels like lying on an acoustic beach, with waves of glistening overtones and deep, sonorous bass washing over you. While „Empty Gazing“ is entirely built around a single, sadly sloping four-note loop, „The Second Ponderosa“ is marked by a more intricate architecture: A simple chordal motive dominates its introduction, before the track falls into a hazy slumber filled with orchestral swells. In the triumphant finale, both are superimposed, creating a field of overlapping melodies, harmonies and colours.

„A Young Person's Guide“ furthermore explains Dunn's motivations behind using classical instruments, for referring to his collaborators as „his ensemble“ in the liner notes and to himself as a „21st century composer“ on his website. Just like a lot of other Sound Artists, he seems less fascinated by the traditions, complexities and conventions of classical music than by the awe-inspiring power and acoustic richness of an orchestra. Through the hands of a composer, a group of individual musicians will turn into a living, sound-producing organism capable of howling like a storm and dying down to a sensitive whisper. Instead of questioning the ongoing relevance of this century-old body, Dunn is instead looking for ways to transform it into an entity suited for realising his visions. Like a grandmaster of chess sees shifting constellations on  64 squares, he is hearing changing constellations of timbre and dynamics in the pit. And while the job of Mozart and Beethoven was to take the musical material to its logical conclusion by organising sound, he is, in a perfect reversal, developing his sounds along an axis of organisational ideas. An ensemble is transferred into a creative hyperspace without limitations or limits, the public placed in a virtual auditorium with the same potential for intense silence and mindshattering climaxes as a  concert hall. And in its most stimulating moments, you can almost see Dunn standing in front of the musicians, sporting a dinner jacket and swinging his baton.

In the middle of the night, the conductor suddenly awakes from what seems to him a five-year sleep, frazzles and figments of music and unreal images of bizarre ensembles still imprinted on his retina. Somewhere in the distance, a clock strikes four. There's the embryo of an idea in his head and for a few seconds, he is tempted to pick up a pen and a piece of paper from his bedstand to note it down. Then, he decides against it, closes his eyes and peacefully dozes off again. In the background, almost inaudibly, a copy of „A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn“ is playing in a quiet and neverending loop.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Kyle Bobby Dunn
Homepage: Low Point Records

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