Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Music Library: Kyle Bobby Dunn and Matt Stevens

Here's two interesting musicians who asked me to review their most recent work.

Kyle Bobby Dunn - A Young Person's Guide To Kyle Bobby Dunn (2009-2010).  Although the "Bobby" in his name suggests that Mr. Dunn might be one-half of the country duo Conrad&Dunn (of the hit album Microtones For My Horses), Kyle Bobby Dunn is, in fact, a minimalist composer enamored of space, not unlike Morton Feldman.  The collected compositions herein are built from that same mine of furniture music that Erik Satie first struck in the early 20th century and that Brian Eno turned into the soundtrack to hipster mind expansion in the 70s.  Mr. Dunn's compositions are most like that of, as I said, Morton Feldman, although unlike Feldman, he uses a laptop to liquefy his sounds.  On some of the tracks, the laptoppiness needs only a smattering of synthetic percussion to tilt it into the soundscapes of Four Tet.  But there's no percussion here.  Time itself seems to liquefy as Mr. Dunn wreaks every drop of beauty from these gently lapping notes.  On headphones, I can pick up softly mixed organic noise and the wobbly bass can provide a feeling of discomfort that is wholly at odds with the golden sunset sounds of the main, well, melody, as it were.  On my car stereo, all that I have are the whole tones, giving the feeling of driving in a haze.  On my boombox, even the tones aren't as rich.  I recommend headphones. If you were to visit the Rothko Chapel in Houston and you had forgotten to load up Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel" onto your iPod, I believe that Mr. Feldman himself would approve of using Mr. Dunn's work as a substitute.  If you watched the final scene of Greaser's Palace in real time or find yourself thinking of alternate appropriate music for the sunrise scene in Gerry, this is for you.  I haven't even mentioned Mr. Dunn's appropriation of the title from John Fahey's final compilation until now.  But now I have.  Available on Low Point.  Don't know if there's a stateside distributor yet.

Matt Stevens - Ghost (2010).  Stevens is a British guitarist who mentioned fellow fingerstyle guitarist James Blackshaw when he contacted me.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised to hear from him because I wasn't very kind to his work with The Fierce and the Dead, a band I wanted to like but simply didn't.  This album, which I do like, is different enough to provide clarity: The Fierce and the Dead released a single 19-minute improvised track, while Ghost contains carefully composed instrumental songs.  The Fierce and the Dead seemed unfocused.  Every song on Ghost has sharp focus.  None of these tracks really sound much like Blackshaw, though.  Where Blackshaw, like Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, is a drone-y psychedelic fingerstylist, Stevens is working in pop idioms.  Stevens is a strong producer and has a good ear for harmony and melody.  What he needs, though, are vocals.  Not on every track, but on some.  In fact, I wrote a few while listening to this.  I'm sure that every young British guitarist is dying to hook up with a fat old guy in the States, so call me, man.  Available from his website as a digital download; name your price.


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