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For me, one of my litmus tests for music is: can I paint to it? And, in that, I often look for full albums. Afterall, then I don’t need to change the music for an hour, at least. Yet, people are so quick to consume these days that the ‘track;’ has seemed to take precedent over the album and, in my opinion, it’s been harder to find full albums. That ‘full album experience’, for instance, means that to really enjoy track 5, you need to have followed the rhythms of track 4. The bloops and pops of track 9 set up the first strummings of the guitar on Track 10. And so on. That’s how you listen to an album. You don’t skip a track because you don’t like it. The first time through, you have to listen all the way through. A good album rewards the patient listener. Each song is part of the whole and the whole is something you can only appreciate if you sit with it. This album is one of those that rewards the listener’s investment of time and space with an ever-evolving soundscape of patient songs.
This album – “Broken Open” by David Block aka The Human Experience – effortlessly alternates between the loud and soft, the faster (but not too fast) and slow (but not drawn out), the careful delicate lines and the rougher hewn rhythms. Filled with soulful stillness that alternately flits and lilts, plods and plunks, and lifts up and floats along, everything on here fits perfectly into the mix. There’s no rush. There’s no hurry in it. It is music that eases tension. It softens the edges. Yet, it never feels vague or unsure. It drifts off but you can trust it – it knows where its going and never feels like it loses itself in its meandering rhythms. Instead, they meander like soft threads that weave together an appropriate outfit for your dreamy soul.
One of David’s strong suits is collaboration. He’s a great collaborator and it shows in this album. Guest vocalists of seemingly all shapes and sizes bring a variety of voices to the table. If it weren’t for David holding it all together, in the background, in the foreground, all around, then it might not all fit together. But it does. And it’s grand in soft and subtle ways. Then there’s the guest instrumentation – like Mal Webb and his high floating trumpet on “Traveling Blues” that sings along perfectly with the swampy back beat. The trumpet is the Western answer to the mizmar flute that comes from the Middle East. It’s our call to jazzy prayer.
The vocals on each song dance along perfectly with the precisely composed rhythms. “A Little Deeper” picks up the rhythm but in a way with its steady beat pulsing in a lucid dream that never drops into a hammer, just a soft clap reminding us that this isn’t music to necessarily fall asleep to. Not quite yet anyways.
Then there’s a song like “La Maruciya” that has, to me, a sadly beautiful sound. With the slighlty raspier deeper vocals, it balances out some of the higher female voices on the album. It’s not all light and roses. It’s these deeper places too. The song that follows continues that flow and the album drifts off and away like a cloud.
Basically, I could wax eloquently about each song – but I’ll leave it and the listening to you. This is the reward of the album: the broad arcs of sound and moods. Sure you can have one nice pretty song and it’s fun and everyone is happy. But can you sculpt a sequence of events that paints a bigger picture – something that is more than a momentary feeling – something that echoes more finely? This does that grandly. There’s a maturity, a realness, and a richness in this album to David’s musical voice. It’s not trying to shake you up. It’s not trying to calm you down. It isn’t trying to do anything. It’s just doing what it means to do. And, in that, it feels effortless. There’s a great beauty and a lot of work that goes into making a work of art feel effortless.
So, thank you, David, for doing that work. This is a lovely addition to my music collection.
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