To say that a collaboration between mutual admirers Thomas Meluch (Benoît Pioulard) and Kyle Bobby Dunn is a marriage made in heaven, as the saying goes, isn't as much of an exaggeration as it might seem. Based on the evidence at hand, each contributes a dimension to the other's music that makes the musical result feel satisfyingly complete, and the combination of Meluch's vocal-based songcraft and Dunn's artful soundscultping turns out to be a winning proposition for both artists. Strange bedfellows they ain't.
How the collaboration came about is itself interesting, given that both artists were in the midst of important transitions in their lives—Meluch relocating to Seattle from the UK and wrestling with all of the turmoil that such a move engenders, and Dunn confronting the fact that his ambitious yet physically and emotionally exhausting opus, Kyle Bobby Dunn and The Infinite Sadness, was coming to an end. The upside is that such disruption pays creative dividends, with in this case the two channeling their respective anxieties into a debut outing under the Perils name. Par for the course these days, the two sent bits and pieces back and forth, with Dunn adding his signature cloudscaping to Meluch's ethereal song fragments. Mastered by his Orcas partner Rafael Anton Irisarri and checking in at forty-one minutes, the resultant self-titled album is a perfect fit for the twelve-inch vinyl format.
Though a poem can be heard being read by Karen Kuslansky at the end of “Colours Hide My Face,” the opener, assembled using hazy guitar textures and tape loops, plays more like a slow-motion instrumental overture suffused with melancholy and wrapped in gauze. The restrained dirge “(Dead in the) Creekbed Blues,” on the other hand, situates itself closer to Benoît Pioulard territory due to Meluch's immediately identifiable vocalizing. As the album's ten songs play, the balance appears to regularly shift from one pole to the other, the drone-like murmur of an instrumental setting (“Leveled,” for example) aligning itself more to Dunn and the songs featuring vocals invariably casting the spotlight on Meluch (e.g., “Resin”).
Of course, the material is never so black-and-white as such a description implies; there are no clear-cut boundaries that place a piece exclusively in one artist's camp, and a representative setting such as “All That's Left” impresses as a portrait of two creative forces, not one. Further to that, it would be misguided to identify a piece as being more an example of Dunn's handiwork simply for being non-vocal, given the largely instrumental character of Sonnet, Meluch's recent Benoît Pioulard release. Regardless, he's in wonderful voice throughout, his soft, light-as-a-feather delivery a clear album strength, and the two demonstrate a particular gift for assembling sounds into seductive wholes. While Perils is strong from beginning to end, the lovely spellcaster “The Unbecoming” definitely stands out as one of the tracks where their individual contributions fuse most indissolubly.