Review: Kyle Bobby Dunn, “Fragments & Compositions of…”

This carefully arranged and whisper-quiet record on Sedimental squeezes the time right out of life. Kyle Dunn’s slow orchestral pieces emphasize tiny movements and utilize subdued instrumentation as a means of stopping the clock and highlighting minuscule developments. It’s a beautiful and flawed record, one that shares a lot with early Stars of the Lid records, but Fragments & Compositions of… is absolutely bare-bones with little dressing and no pretense.

The nature of Dunn’s work invites all kinds of cinematic ideas and fantastic daydreams. As the stringed instruments he employs stretch out and breathe their harmonic sighs, an irresistible urge to impose lonely environments and isolated people upon the record arises. Ordinary and familiar events acquire a special dimension in the light of music such as this and, if experience is any indicator, that’s simply a natural consequence of well-written, well-produced chamber-drone. Kyle employs this potential well, shying away from overt drama, goofy samples, and imposing or unnecessary narratives while developing a natural and sensuous cycle of hushed pseudo-sonatas. His manner of constructing songs depends largely upon a natural and convincing tapestry of sounds: violins, cellos, pianos, and processed sound drift together throughout the majority of the record; expanding and contracting naturally as though Dunn’s influence was not at all involved and the music spontaneously seeped into existence. This sometimes generates a wash of pure sound and sometimes results in an intricate and subtle dance of classical instrumentation. Kyle fluctuates between emphasizing either drones or delicate and mesmerizing patterns, with one instrument or another sometimes assuming solo duties. He manages to extract a fair amount of variety from this formula but never injects the music with surprising dynamics nor does play with sharp contrasts. The album floats along at a pleasant enough pace but it doesn’t travel as far as I would like and it never deviates from the tone established in the first minutes of its playing.

The album’s one-dimensional quality might be an artifact of its development. These pieces were recorded over a period of two years and, if the title is any indication, were not originally conceived as parts of a whole. In that light the static quality of Fragments… acquires a sensible logic: think of the album as little more than a compilation of closely related compositions from the same time period and the uniformity becomes understandable. The austere beauty of the record is ultimately its greatest virtue and its most annoying element. Nonetheless, its uniformity is not especially damning. The quality of the songwriting combined with Dunn’s restraint is enough to make this a good record. A broader dynamic range and a greater instrumental variety would’ve helped it a great deal, however.

Fragments & Compositions of… is available on Sedimental Records
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com

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