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.
This past summer, on the 4th of July weekend, I was again at High Sierra Music Festival up in Quincy, CA. It’s a beautiful area of California that reminds me a lot of Northern Vermont – rolling hills, farmlands, vast skies. It’s just that the trees are twice as tall and the environs just a bit more permissible. In any case, I returned there again this year and brought with me some big banners for the main stage. The banners were each one half of the painting Birth of a Star (Link) and were printed on speaker mesh so that they wouldn’t impede on the sound and so the wind could adequately blow through them. I was really stoked to be able to add to this really awesome festival. It’s been going on for 21 years and has such a friendly open vibe and is a ton of fun.
Some of the musical highlights included:
There was a whole lot of other music in there too, some of which was truly awesome. I love music and I love to dance and find that, in those rhythms and patterns, the high and lows, I can lose myself in it and find so much inspiration that is later expressed through my artwork. In any case, I’m grateful for a chance to play up in the mountains with such stellar company.
I also want to extend my thanks and gratitude to Lisa Brown, ambiance crew coordinator, and Adam Roberts of Summit Art Licensing for helping to make this all happen. Really: truly grateful for your patience and willingness to move forwards and make it happen.
I’ve been working with Conscious Alliance for quite a while now producing a poster or two per year for them. Conscious Alliance gives the posters away for donations of food or money at various events and shows they attend. The donations go towards needy families across the country. They do some really great work.
Here is the poster that will be printed for the Sound Tribe Sector Nine shows this coming August in Chicago. The image is a detail of the painting entitled “Gratitude” which can be seen here.
While we’re at it, here is a poster I made for them for an event just about a year previous… at least, according to the dates on both posters. This one was made for the August 2009 STS9 shows in Georgia. This one used the painting “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” from the Evolution Series
Join Us for a night of Art, Wine, Cheese, and Music at Studio Isis in Los Angeles
Art and Decor by TenThousandVisions
Admission is FREE before 10pm/$20 after.
Studio Isis – 610 Isis Avenue Inglewood CA 90301 MAP
this morning we listen to
broad sounds which
have the entire universe wrapped up
long luscious beats and glitchy bitsy bleeps
inbetween vocality ariaticy and internality
unwinding and winding up
in the place of warm space
where we can
to all the sweet energies i sometimes
find myself missing
heart warm true voice
mind wide open sigh
breathing in and out
how much longer til i die?
if i don’t get my work done in time
then is there space?
and if i run out of space
what is the saving grace:
that all that really mattered
was the vibration
Once i was out at a full moon gathering. it was fall, september, 2004 to be exact. It was early morning. I was totally getting down to something, i don’t remember who. the sun was getting ready to rise, the mountains surrounding were painted in sweet colors of desert dawn and this dude comes up, prancing and weird around me, and says “yo, c’mon, hit me, man.” and i am jarred out of my beatmatched reverie- “huh?!” and he is like bouncing around in front of me with this jacket on and looking like adam horowitz when he was in “roadside prophets”. skinny kind of kid who is looking like a frantic dog jumping around in front of me, “c’mon, man, c’mon, let’s fight. don’tchu wanna? c’mon man! we’ll just go over there and fucking go at it!”
“what are you talking about?” and i am still trying to get down.
“”c’mon, yeah! hit me! c’mon, man in the face!”
i’m like: have i seen this in some movie? is this a dream sequence? this is weeeeeiiiirrrrrrrdddddd. “look man,” i say, “i will you do you an even bigger favor- i won’t hit you. you’ll go chill out and be thankful to me in the end.” i’m laughing and i know that doesn’t help things at all.
“c’,mon man! fucking hit me! you afraid?! c’mooooon!” and he is bouncing around in front of me like a short and skinny speed freak white kid in a puffy jacket and the beats are funky and i’m trying to dance and this dude is trying to get me to hit him.
So i never hit him and seem to defuse the situation with my lightness and his inability to ever find any way for himself to hook me into his game and he kind of prances off and i’m left in this really weird state of mind floating between absurdity and lightness.
a little bit later i am talking with violet telling her about this weird stuff that this dude was saying to me. she doesn’t believe me. “he is right behind me, right now, this very moment!” i say, because he just happens to be right behind me, in kind of a wandering daze.
“there’s no one there, michael,” she says, peering over my shoulder.
and i turn and there isn’t! just a buncha kids dancing! what the fuck! am i hallucinating!? but i saw it happen! he was right there!
but later i do see him, skulking about in a beat up white tshirt, eyes a little glazed, looking kind of hot, all intention forgotten…
so if this was you, maybe you wanna consider the drugs you take and the methods of your interactions, the intentions by which you lead your life and the reasons you do what you do.
if this wasn’t you then always keep an eye out for people, send them some love cause not everyone feels it like you do- some people just want some attention, some just want some love but they will never admit it.
some people really might need a good slap in the face but i am not gonna give it to them- especially if i am dancing to some funky ass sunrise set and the sky is lightening and my mind and heart are bursting…
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