Monday, January 17, 2011

Rural Route No. 2 - Kyle Bobby Dunn (Rural Route Series)

Rural Route No.2

Kyle Bobby Dunn
Standard Form Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

As someone who’d never heard of Kyle Bobby Dunn before 2010, I had the great fortune to discover the composer’s work through A Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn, a double LP that collected Fervency (a 2009 Moodgadget release) with over sixty minutes of unreleased tracks from those same sessions. And yes, I’m aware that by describing Dunn as a composer, I’m putting him in league with some of ambient’s finest tightrope-walkers, like Stars Of the Lid or Brian Eno. I’m comfortable with that, as Rural Route No.2 handily pushes Dunn’s two sonic poles – noise-laced urgency and pristine calm - to new levels of emotional richness.

That may seem like a feat for a release that clocks barely twenty minutes in all, but Dunn has never let limitations diminish his reach. He’s a minimalist, after all, and although both tracks here wander a static purgatory, we listeners receive occasional channels that direct us through Dunn’s devious narrative. If not for the EP’s actual narrative - that of Dunn’s return to a childhood home and all of the pale memories it recalls – first track ‘Dissonant Distances’ could’ve made an excellent title to these faraway recollections. Bathed in soft, industrial tones and at one point honing in on what sounds like a nostalgic radio signal, ‘Dissonant Distances’ would feel sterile if not for its emotional crests. That same ebb and flow runs through ‘Senium III’, only less obstructed by conflicted memories and more at ease with the ghostly beauty of nostalgia.

Overdue to take a Greyhound bus to my own hometown, I let Rural Route No. 2 accompany me when my passenger-seat caught the first of Toronto’s smog-riddled skyline. And in the way these two longform tracks expand then curl, speak up and then cut themselves off, I remembered the city in a scattershot of half-memories that showcase, with impassive precision, how it felt to live there. ‘Senium III’ has that rare ability to beckon buried thoughts and merit them with the appropriate significance. Like nostalgia itself, it's a wonderful place to wallow so long as you don’t live there.

(This review was originally published on Skeleton Crew Quarterly in August 2010.)

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