Kyle Bobby Dunn: … And The Infinite Sadness
Students Of Decay

With material having appeared since 2005 on labels such as Desire Path, Kning Disk, and Low Point, Montreal-based Kyle Bobby Dunn has garnered a solid reputation and enviable following for his particularly refined brand of guitar-based ambient minimalism. Despite its fundamentally abstract nature, his music, oft plaintive and wistful in tone, packs a subtle yet nevertheless powerful emotional punch. Apparently the source material for … And The Infinite Sadness (available in three-LP and two-CD formats) was recorded in various Canadian towns, including Belleville and Dorset, after which Dunn brought the recording to its final form at L'auberge de Dunn Studios in Montreal. And, as he has done in the past, Dunn undercuts the seriousness of his music with track titles of questionable taste, among them “An Excrement Suite (For Voices Lost Again)” and “Variations on a Theme By St-Dipshit,” as well as others more sardonic, such as “Confessions of the Mildly Miserable” and “Powers of None.”

The opening piece “Ouverture de Peter Hodge Transport” confirms that Dunn's signature sound hasn't undergone radical transformation since the release of the 2010 and 2012 Low Point collections, A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn and Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn: those crystalline guitar shadings remain solidly in place, and Dunn's languorous music flows with its customary elegance and grace. In these nineteen settings, layers of shimmering tones bleed into one another, the music ebbing and flowing with a natural ease. Like fading light on a peaceful summer's evening, the typical piece breathes gently, with Dunn's glassy guitar tones often sounding similar to those of a steel guitar, and there's a stately quality and church-like grandeur to his music that makes it easy to get behind.

Though the tracks share a uniform style, subtle details do individuate one piece from another—the sudden cry of children's voices at the end of “Ouverture de Peter Hodge Transport” and the fireworks-like rustles that appear in the background of “Rue de Guy-Mathieu,” for example. And while many a piece is retiring, there are some, such as “Where Circles Never Become Circles” and “Ghostkeeping Verses I-IV,” that swell to an aggressive pitch that makes them stand out for simply doing so. But as generally satisfying a collection as … And The Infinite Sadness is, a couple of things about it do nag: its length, first of all, and, secondly, its similarity to the music Dunn's released before. For starters, one questions whether 130 minutes of it is necessary, given the general sameness of the material. And while there are differences between the new release and the earlier ones, they're so small they could be missed by the average listener. In plotting his next move, Dunn might be wise to consider changing things up in some dramatic way, perhaps by collaborating with another artist or adding a new instrument to his soundworld; given that his style of music would lend itself naturally to the presence of a vocalist, classical or otherwise, maybe that would be worth considering. Note by way of example that if one considers the output of artists who also possess strong signature identities (Autechre, Boards of Canada, and even Celer come to mind), one discovers that each of their albums differs in key ways.

July 2014