One would be hard-pressed to argue that the respective musical styles of Kyle Bobby Dunn and Thomas Meluch (aka Benoit Pioulard) are more disparate than they are similar. For starters, both artists work almost primarily in the realm of “ambient-electronic.” And although that style tag is about as appropriate a descriptor as it is flawed in it’s breadth, we will embrace it here as an uninspired jumping off point.
Like any good rabbit hole, the deeper one delves the more understanding one gains. In doing so with these artists’s respective catalogues, the nuances that separate Dunn and Meluch become apparent rather quickly. Dunn tends toward the more minimal side of things, often taking a “fewest brush strokes” philosophy to his prepared guitar pieces. Meluch, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more playful, allowing for different recording techniques to colour his pieces and a more varied set of instruments to enter his sound worlds.
Perils – Perils
(Desire Path Recordings, 2015)
As the name Perils suggests, the album came to fruition during a time of struggle. Dunn was more than bogged down from the near completion of his opus, Kyle Bobby Dunn and the Infinite Sadness, while Meluch was in the midst of moving his entire life from the UK to the US. Through this strange and turbulent time the duo managed to piece together an album that, despite its palpable melancholy, speaks more of future promise than present hardship.
I am not as versed in Meluch’s music as I am Dunn’s, but I can say with high certainty that Perils is like nothing either of these artists would have come up with on their own. And as much as each player shines through in these songs, the pieces here don’t exactly resemble a fusion of styles, but a unique and unexpected sound emerging from that fusion.
Perils opens with the drone piece “Colours Hide My Face” (notice the Canadian spelling of colours. A Dunn original no doubt). Elegiac tones are the focus here, seeming to both compound and disintegrate simultaneously, a tricky balance that’s struck rather successfully throughout the record. Take for example the addition of vocals on a handful of these songs, where a deft ear for their subtle integration is requisite to their success. Even on “Resin,” which one could argue ventures into neofolk territory, stands out more as a variation on a theme then the auditory equivalent of a sore thumb.
The album’s biggest pitfall, and perhaps it’s only pitfall, is it’s brevity. Since Dunn tends to favour expansive, multiple-hour spanning releases, it’s clear that Meluch had a winning influence on the structure of Perils. Unfortunately, the shear length of some of these purely instrumental pieces make them feel more like interludes than fully developed arrangements. However, the tracks all flow seamlessly into one another, making for a record that is – aside from a couple of exceptions – nothing if not the sum of its parts.