Kyle Bobby Dunn and Kamasi Washington (respectively) released new singles. So I wrote about them.
It’s been roughly a year since I last reviewed two new singles by two artists that have absolutely nothing in common, save for the fact that I enjoy their respective works. I could have written these up separately, but upon further consideration, it seems that both Kyle Bobby Dunn (ambient droner) and Kamasi Washington (progressive jazz) have released two of the most emotionally stirring (and gorgeous) tracks of 2017 thus far.
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard anything “new” from Kyle Bobby Dunn. Dude kind of tapped himself out in 2014 with the sprawling, ambitious triple album, Kyle Bobby Dunn and The Infinite Sadness. At the beginning of 2015, he issued an unreleased track from the archives, and later in the year, appeared on both a bizarre collaborative cassette release, as well as an album issued under the Perils moniker—a joint effort with Thomas Meluch.
But “Her Ghost Wore Tennis Shoes” is the first new piece of solo music from Dunn in over three years.
More concise than some of his other solo compositions, “Her Ghost” is a slim five minutes in length; but what a five minutes it is. Shimmering and haunted, Dunn’s slow motion guitar work washes over you with the speed of the director’s cut of a foreign made documentary about molasses rolling up a hill.
Infinite Sadness is an album that is certainly listenable on a turntable, but as with most ambient and experimental music, it really reveals itself to you when you listen with headphones. The same can be said for “Her Ghost.” It’s an incredibly quiet song, and around halfway though, the cascading waves temporarily cease, and are replaced a lower, more dissonant sound that has a mournful quality to it. It is this sound that then begins to swell every so slightly, and is what fades out into the ether as the piece concludes.
“Processed” by producer Nicholas Schofield, in a recent interview, Dunn implied that “Her Ghost,” as well as an alternate take of it available on his Soundcloud page, are the beginning of something—just don’t count on that something arriving any time soon. In the same breath, he discusses just how difficult it has been to follow up a triple album, and that any new full-length is still a ways off.
Continuing to walk the tightrope between icy soundscapes and a comforting warmth, Kyle Bobby Dunn can, quite honestly, do no wrong as an ambient composer, and with an evocative piece like “Her Ghost Wore Tennis Shoes,” he proves it again.
The first thing you notice about the new, staggering thirteen minute track from Kamasi Washington is just how familiar it sounds. Maybe that’s intentional; maybe Washington, as a bandleader, saxophonist, and composer, doesn’t want to stray too far from what listeners may know of him thus far.
Following his auspicious triple album debut, The Epic, “Truth” is both a self-contained single, as well as a slice of what can be expected from a forthcoming EP, due out this summer. Taking the formula that worked on so many of The Epic’s songs, “Truth” finds Washington in a slightly more reflective place. Acoustic guitar noodling swirls around, and the bold striking of piano chords have a more pensive, reserved, and contemplative feeling this time around.
Jazzy drumming, guitar plucking, and the upright bass all shuffle in together, allowing the song to grow and build prior to the arrival of the horns. When you have thirteen minutes, you can take your time, letting all the sounds play, and set the tone you want until the familiar, wordless singing of the choir slides in around the four-minute mark.
This is all exposition, really; Washington, taking the lead, doesn’t appear until the pacing of the song changes slightly to a faster clip after five minutes, with the rest of the song becoming an emotionally driven give and take between rising cacophony and resolve.
Calling “Truth” a statement of transcendental beauty seems both loaded with hyperbole and also, quite possibly, not doing it justice. A gorgeous statement, it is the kind of song that, in the end, I suppose you just have to hear it for yourself to believe.
Upon further consideration, Washington and Dunn have more in common than I had originally thought 700 words ago. Both are working on following up impressive feats (i.e. triple albums); Dunn is returning from years of a near self-imposed exile, slowly finding his musical voice again, and Washington is continuing to build off of the success that he found with The Epic, as well as his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar. Pulled from two different musical worlds, both of these are important and remarkable works from important and remarkable artists.