2CD, Low Point, 2010
To call an album “A Young Person’s Guide…” connotes historical significance, an artistic legacy, perhaps spanning decades, one crucial enough to warrant educating later generations about its indelible cultural benchmark. Kyle Bobby Dunn, the internationally acclaimed, Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based dronologist, is a mere quarter-century old. It follows, therefore, that this self-referential double-disc album stems not from hubris but rather from a tongue-in-cheek jab at a culture obsessed with the wholesale consumption of scraps of data in the blink of an eye, even while, simultaneously, hyper-abbreviated attention spans jump ahead to find the next viral meme. The attention Dunn’s work demands borders on the mythical; the effect of its dynamics approaches the sublime.
Of the twelve compositions on “A Young Person’s Guide…”, four originally appeared on the digital-only album “Fervency” (2009). The other eight are from the same sessions that produced that album, giving listeners five years’ worth of material to digest. Not your everyday introductory series. Considering the sprawling, glacial nature of many of these tracks, there is nothing cursory about it. There are really only two ways to listen to this towering cycle of spatial ebb and flow: immersive or indifferent. While the former has its ready candidates in (diehard) ambient drone fans, it is the latter group from which converts will be made. This may seem contradictory, but simply taking the action of putting “A Young Person’s Guide…” on in the background opens up a wealth of insidious channels ripe for blissful drone infection. Simply put, the watery nature of these muted pools of sound – gentle, yet penetrating – holds a patience capable of permeating at both conscious and subconscious levels.
Formulated from the drone alchemist’s primary ingredients of sustained, repeated sounds and tone-clusters, “A Young Person’s Guide…” finds sources in brass, strings, guitar and piano, electronically warped, stretched and woven into expansive textures. What results are two hours of profound introversion. The response, similar to the act of listening, can again be twofold: emotional or numbing. Like slowly sifting sediment, the layers settle effortlessly into their respective roles, be it the rumbling undercurrent and sedated longing of “Empty Gazing”, the full orchestra buried within “Promenade”, or the starlit ridges imagined by “The Second Ponderosa”. Dunn conjures the audio equivalent of gentle movements of air, his sound, grounded in the aesthetics of postminimalism, fixated on a vanishing point impossible to fully discern yet inexplicably real. It is the journey toward that endless horizon, a most perfect stasis, felt more than heard, which “A Young Person’s Guide…” replicates in all its unhurried, monumental subtlety.
— Dutton Hauhart