Ways of Meaning is a confident and soulful ambient record by a young man whose musical ability and emotional maturity outstrip his age.
At barely a quarter-century into his young life, Toronto-born Kyle Bobby Dunn has quietly and prolifically released a spate of ambient music that challenges us to think and feel more deeply than we often do. Ways of Meaning, as flush and fresh as a debut, yet as mature as an old master’s swan song, is, according to Dunn, “an attempt to harness the finality of meaning as a shared experience… a salve for our collective emptiness, a catalyst for solace, or a pathway out of our ever-present longing.” In six songs, all but one of them surprisingly brief, he creates sounds that live up to this lofty language. It feels expressive and weighty but open-ended, an art piece that allows our unique thoughts and emotions to rise to the surface through Dunn’s own process of turning experience into meaning.
The record is a smooth, Stars of the Lid-like patina of guitar, organ, and open space, which draws the listener in by beginning simply (with the distant, regal call of “Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake”) and becoming more full-bodied and complex. Besides adding a low-end layer to the first track’s hollow call, Dunn seems to have written “Statuit” like an efficient pop tune, then slowed it down thousands of times so as to explore its hidden depth. “Canyon Meadows” introduces strings and a bell-like organ to the milieu, swirling and blooming as if the song is in perpetual blossom. Before the lengthy centerpiece and emotional crescendo of “Movement for the Completely Fucked”, “New Pures” shoots for the nerves, all mid-range drones teetering on the edge. Hardly narcotic, Ways of Meaning inspires lots of deep, present reflection. In these gorgeous tones and graceful waves I can almost hear the throngs of people gathering to meditate upon themselves, in solitude, but together as one.