Kyle Bobby Dunn – And The Infinite Sadness (Students of Decay, 2014)

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Is it possible to be in love with music? Because for the last few months I’ve scarcely wanted to listen to anything other than Kyle Bobby Dunn’s melancholic creations. Filling the gap in a post-active-Stars of the Lid world, Dunn has been releasing heart achingly beautiful Ambient and Drone music for the past 7 years, populating his delicate niche with romantic reflections and earnest fugues that, despite their melancholy, have been addictively engrossing. So finally, after some delay and thanks to the kind souls of Students of Decay, here is the latest glacial beauty from Dunn:, And The Infinite Sadness.

It’s tricky reviewing Kyle’s music without meandering into the esoteric; how can I describe and define this 2 hour, 3xLP opus to a person unfamiliar with the sound? I don’t want to come off as accidentally stereotypical by insinuating that his sonic repertoire is rather limited and predictable, but there is a certain set of parameters to Dunn’s sonic envelope that become extremely clear and familiar with only a few listens that does put people off. Admittedly I’m not adverse to a little purple prose here and there but when an album like this comes along and all it has is its softly changing, delicately evolving themes and motifs there is little one can do but select a few choice emotional highlights from across its span.

Pinning down where you are emotionally across its breadth is, first and foremost, the most challenging part of this release, with each track forging its own sad little niche. Some of the pieces are clearly titled and obvious in their internal reflection and introspection; stunning opener “Ouverture de Peter Hodge Transport” has a bus-window-gazing kind of attitude in its gauzy and fluffy drone sequences, playing itself loud and with a certain energy to hear yourself think over the background noise, punctuated at the end by eerie but gleeful screams and cries of children. Track five, “Rue de Guy-Mathieu” has a similarly contemplative attitude but with a differing presentation; no longer comfy and seated we face a more chaotic clamour to the music, filled with a stuttering, staccato washes of noise and static as we glimpse the snippets of the lives of those passing by, unknown to us as they brush past to disappear into the crowd, each one a potential friend or lover.

Some of these moments of solitude are more internally reflective and rest more upon the stronger themes of this album: relationships, love, women, loneliness. Every one of them charts some unique piece in the disjointed story; stunning pre-release single “Boring Foothills of Footfetishville”  turns slowly on its minimal riff, spinning out its peaks of shimmering love and light in gorgeous waves. “Sorrowful joy” is something I read describing this particular track, and nothing has been more accurate; love til it aches, but appearing to us in retrospect. “Duckfaced Fantasy” is another jokingly titled release but with a deeper, possibly even romantic core as it spins ethereal waves of light, daydreaming drones from a place of wist and unachievable longing, her face appearing in your various social networks and all so far away. The wonderful duo of “Ghostkeeping, Verses I-IV” and “Powers of None” seem to highlight the opposite side of this, the echoes of a relationship past being dredged up and caught, unable to shake free. The first is filled with strained, tenuous and antagonistic drones, distal and hazy but still very real and overwhelming, the second collapsing into a fugue of resignation, continuing the motifs and idiosyncrasies of the former but dialling it all back as the angst passes into melancholy.

The reason this incompleteness we feel throughout the album is never questioned is because it’s apparent that Dunn personally believes himself to be the source of this rejection; “Mon Retard”‘s quiet contemplation at his lack of expedience results in a track simmering in regret, tracking his failure  through repetitive, oscillating drone minimalism that can’t draw itself away from the thought of her and the opportunity missed; if only he’d acted sooner. It’s actually one of the most relatable pieces and  the strongest breakaway track, sounding a good deal like 36 at moments. Evocative waves radiate forth much later on in the oddly but perhaps appropriately titled “The Same (Drunk in Quebec & In Love Club Remix)” with warm washes of smeared, slurred drone duplicating some of the catharsis in early album “An Excrement Suite For Voices Lost Again” but in its own, alcohol propelled way, and “Spem In Alium & Her Unable” also seems want to drop in on this continuing failure in its slow-burning lines, carving fierce and deeprooted tracts of commanding drone in its emboldened and desirous but ultimately unsuccessful duration, but not for lack of trying.

It’s impossible for me to love an album and review it well, especially this release. Kyle’s heart-wrenching constructions hit so close to home and are just so brilliantly well crafted and compelling it’s difficult to avoid getting drawn into his melancholic existence and feel and experience its peaks and troughs with him. It’s a release that does catch itself living in the past frequently, reminiscing wistfully on those easier and less lonely times, continually bringing up those happy, blissful moments (“Those Satisfactions Are Permanent” indeed) and using them as fuel to try and evoke those sensations again, even through failure and hardships. I don’t want to call it lonely music for lonely people because that’s kind of trivialising and possibly even demeaning, but there’s something about how Dunn generates music that is deeply relatable and engrossing, even comforting, for people with similar predicaments that’s difficult to define. All I know is that this record has become the soundtrack to my life these past few days and for whatever reason I never want it to end.

Available June 10th.

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