There is a slight Catch-22 hiding in the act of writing a review for Kyle Bobby Dunn’s 2-disc work A Young Person’s Guide to… Problem being, trying to write a lot about the music seems to run counter to the conceptual idea behind a work that appears to comprise very little while at the same time doing quite a lot–but quietly. Picking up from Dunn’s formerly download-only work Fervency and then embossing it with newer work, A Young Person’s Guide to… is a set of slow-moving pieces that never raise their voices much above a whisper, but those voices blend to form a deep, delicate chorus track after track. Dunn had several musicians play traditional instruments, then took the sounds and stretched and slowed them into new, hushed forms. The resultant pieces are absolutely graceful and soothing, yet possessed of a discernible edge that pricks at your attention and appreciation. Calling the work “minimalist” would in a way detract from what Dunn has accomplished, because while in structure it all seems fairly simple and straightforward, the composer has infused it with movement–albeit subtle–and feeling. Certainly, played at low volume it’s textbook ambient, unobtrusive and patiently waiting for you to notice it. I slept with it playing on loop one night, got up and went about my business and only noticed, literally an hour later, that it was still going. To some, that could be perceived as a flaw or an inherent dullness. But it’s all by design, and listening to it closely (as you should) belies the idea of an ignorable simplicity. If the earmark of a good ambient disc is its ability to affect you even when you’re not immediately aware that it’s there, then A Young Person’s Guide to… is a good ambient disc. Dunn also makes an interesting choice of adding a couple of piano tracks amidst his misty flows. Surprisingly, given the tone of the rest of the disc, they’re not at all forced or interruptive–just a welcome checkpoint along a very enjoyable listening path.
Available from Low Point.