Album Review(s): Kyle Bobby Dunn - Music For Medication and Six Cognitive Works

The rate with which ambient composer Kyle Bobby Dunn releases music practically moves as glacially as the soundscapes he creates.

His last effort was 2014’s phenomenal triple album, Kyle Bobby Dunn and The Infinite Sadness—so yes, it would be difficult to follow up something that dense and lengthy in a timely fashion. Prior to that, Dunn released music at a somewhat regular pace—with back-to-back double albums in 2010 and 2012, and two other albums in 2008 and 2011.

Dunn hinted at new music in the near future earlier in 2017 with the release of a new single, “Her Ghost Wore Tennis Shoes,” but until a new full length actually materializes, he’s gone back into the vaults and digitally reissued two very early releases via his Bandcamp page—the first, Music For Medication, dates back to 2002 when it was originally recorded and released, and was reissued on CD in 2007; the second, Six Cognitive Works, was recorded in 2005 and 2006, and released the following year.

Both efforts are not dramatic departures from Dunn’s latter day work, but in listening to them now, you can hear the development that has taken place and the confidence that has continued to grow as Dunn continues to compose and perform.

Music For Medication is one of Dunn’s first albums—recorded when he was still a teenager, it finds him crafting elegant, slow moving pieces based around layers of effected electric guitar and keyboards. Comprised of six lengthy compositions, each of which work to build a slightly unnerving, albeit shimmering tension that, in some cases, is never really released. The opening track, “For Summer Lakes,” grows until it reaches a cacophonic breaking point—the harsh, distended droning collapses on itself until the swift decay and resolution at the end.

In contrast, the late arriving “Bonavista,” glistens along through its running time, rarely, if at all, reaching that kind of definitive apex.

Six Cognitive Works, on the other hand, finds Dunn treading into different, much more dissonant and difficult territory. The shimmering tones and playfulness that the pieces on Music For Medication had is gone, and on some pieces, like the slow burning opening, “Ketole,” or the long, icy bubbling of “A Demarcation,” you can hear him beginning to ease into that mournful, or at the very least, those pensive and evocative feelings that are prevalent in his current output.

Other pieces sound like straight up hellscape—like the incredibly brutal cacophony of the closing track, “Certain Sanctuaries, or the nightmarish yet charmingly titled “I’m Gonna Run to You”—showing that even in the early days of his career as an ambient composer, Dunn still had a sense of humor about his song titles.

For those who may not be familiar with Dunn’s more recent output, despite their early arrival in his canon, these are not necessarily the best place to start. For longtime listeners, both Six Cognitive Works and Music For Medication are worth your time—both are fascinating snapshots of Dunn from his very early days, showing a performer who was always brimming with potential and curiosity for just how far he could push the boundaries within a specific piece, and who was willing to experiment and see just how long something could be sustained, or how harsh a tone could be formed.