Kyle Bobby Dunn :: Ways Of Meaning (Desire Path)

As with all ambient music, this can serve as engaging music for active listening, but most will prefer it to be background music. One should not listen to Ways Of Meaning looking for any meaning at all save staid beauty. It is best absorbed passively.

Kyle Bobby Dunn 'Ways Of Meaning'

[Purchase page] A quick Google search for “elegiac thesaurus” should give any reviewer enough choice adjectives to write an adequate review of a Kyle Bobby Dunn album. In fact, let’s just dispense with that list now: doleful, funereal, melancholy, mournful, solemn, and austere are all apt. Sorrowful and threnodial might work too. A Young Person’s Guide To, his first statement as an ambient composer, was an alloy of those adjectives, two hours of drone cut up into long pieces with pleasant interstices here and there. It rewarded patience and concentration. There was a touch of sadness that found its way into every piece, a compelling, and frankly, sometimes exhausting undercurrent.

Ways Of Meaning changes that just a bit. Not that anything preceding it was weepy, but this sounds like the result of Dunn lightening up a touch. Not only are the pieces shorter, they’re happier, too – the drones aren’t as dour, making it easier for the ideas to breathe. Starter “Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake” is a great example of this change. It moves along as a placid river, shy but beautiful, and opens easily into “Statuit,” another understated piece that sounds like an organ played in an empty church. “Canyon Meadows,” easily the album’s best piece and a bold change of instrumentation, with reverb-heavy violins swaying back and forth, is a sunset viewed from said meadows.

Save the ostensible central piece, “Movement for the Completely Fucked,” the album is made of several shorter sketches that reduce Dunn’s ideas to more digestible (and palatable) forms. Some parts of the album would be fine protracted to fifteen minutes or more (“Statuit”), and some would not (“Canyon Meadows”). But it’s sometimes hard to tell with this stuff. The truncation of the pieces changes the way they operate. Instead of slowly building an array of solitary tones, they more often repeat short, pretty phrases. Like I hinted, “Canyon Meadows” is like this – there’s a warbling, warped violin pattern that repeats itself every ten seconds or so, like a record played at 6 RPM. “Statuit,” though less explicitly repetitive, still repeats its discrete parts several times. “Movement,” appropriately so (given its length), does not follow this trend. It is a quiet shrine, a moment lost somewhere in a tide of noise. Closer “Touhy’s Theme” is a mysterious glow in the distance, reverent and serene.

As you can probably tell, I could go on and on with these metaphors. This is one of the nice things about ambient, and more specifically, drone. There are fewer roadblocks between a concept and its execution, and the result is more likely to serve as a pure distillation of an emotion, especially in the hands of someone talented like Dunn. This lack of a literal meaning is pleasant once in a while because it allows you to be creative with your own interpretations of songs, like imagining a music video, but again in a less literal sense – hence all the metaphors. It is also an indication that one should listen to the album differently. As with all ambient music, this can serve as engaging music for active listening, but most will prefer it to be background music. One should not listen to Ways Of Meaning looking for any meaning at all save staid beauty. It is best absorbed passively.

But really, if you’re on this site, or you even know this album exists, you already know all that. This is a solid album, a change from his previous work. The change isn’t good or bad, not anything revolutionary or particularly groundbreaking, just a different method of expressing ideas. Give it a listen and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Ways Of Meaning is out now on Desire Path. [Purchase page]

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