Canada’s Kyle Bobby Dunn is younger than me, but he’s a whole lot better at making music. I may be a happier person, however.
Music for Medication was released on CDR when Dunn was 16; three years later he released Agoniser Ecrire with James Hill while a student at UNC. The project was short-lived, and seeing how it has been tucked into the far corners of the Internet and I may be one of the few journalistic bodies that knows of its existence — it may be safe to say that Dunn would rather forget the experience. Which I, as a former fan of Subtract by Two, simply cannot do. In fact, Agoniser Ecrire‘s existence has likely dampened my enjoyment of Dunn’s solo work up until now.
Agoniser Ecrire, particularly the stellar “Transgression Suite,” preempted the indie classical revival of the late ’00s by a few years and ended up near the top of The Silent Ballet’s top of the year list. Always trying to be ahead of the curve, TSB saw SB2’s blend of experimental and classical music done through indie lenses as a signal that others were on the way (surely enough, years later saw the emergence of Arnalds, Frahm, etc), and clearly Dunn & Hill would be at the forefront. Dunn had other things in mind, split ways with Hill, and started churning out ambient drone albums. In retrospect, this was rather unfortunate, as there were not a lot of guys banging on a piano a decade ago, but we’re never at a loss for people trying to be the next Brian Eno. Nonetheless, Dunn has produced music at a clip of more than one release a year over the past 8 years, and although initial efforts were lacking, he has steadily been increasing the quality of his work and gaining notoriety for it. His most recent ventures, Bring Me the Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn (2012) and Ways of Meaning (2011) were on the cusp of greatness, and now And the Infinite Sadness sees Dunn fully realizing that potential on display a full decade ago.
Infinite Sadness is a noticeably more fluid and more compositionally rich than its predecessors. Drones still form the basis of just about every track, so the drone enthusiasts won’t miss a beat here, but there’s much appeal in the auxiliary sounds Dunn includes that should bring in many crossover listeners. Although drone music is just fine by itself, it’s produced so abundantly today that I consistently find those distancing themselves from the pack by giving the music a bit more trust to be much more enjoyable on the whole. It can become difficult to argue the merits of one drone over another, but throw in some tastefully arranged piano, strings, or horns, and suddenly that drone takes on a whole new life. Dunn gets it — maybe he always did, but he’s now finally embracing it — and Infinite Sadness is now something that shelling out $60 for a triple LP doesn’t seem like a splurge, but rather a responsible purchase.
As Dunn’s career to date has proven that his best material still lies ahead of him, the strength of Infinite Sadness is a sign that hid is a name we won’t be forgetting any time soon.