The cover of Olivia Block’s latest work – a limited vinyl edition (*) – is in itself revelatory. The picture of a human entity facing in resignation a house largely shattered by a tornado, or some sort of equally destructive “natural” force, mirrors our utter impotence in front of something that, quite simply, is stronger than the will of keeping things in order. Or, to put it more bluntly, we can’t rely on a set of personal rules or theoretically disciplined behaviors to acquire the certainty of being left alone, of remaining “safe”. Extending the concept, no reassuring phrase or stereotyped sentence is immune to a process of disintegration capable of annihilating its intention, or presumed “meaning”.
There are still too many people who feel comfortable only when disguising themselves behind chains of words. The less their honesty, the worse the level of distressing vacuity conveyed. In tackling the difficult subject of dysfunctional communication through rather ordinary technological means, Block seems to look for residual significance into the innumerable cracks and holes of our language. Except for Lesley Swanson’s flute and Shaun Flynn’s clarinet – ably camouflaged inside swarms of acoustic molecules – the bulk of Dissolution is shaped by filtered/modified voices and agglomerations of various types of signal. The processing and veritable remodeling of those sources generate Block’s worrying report about the increasing disproportion between the implausible quantity of messages emitted globally, and the inconsequentiality – in terms of genuine progress – of the resulting accumulation. In a nutshell, an X-ray of the shallowness of contemporary “intellect”.
From a merely dynamic viewpoint the piece’s impact is awesome, with particular emphasis on the skull-clutching qualities of certain subsonic textures surrounding the mangling of emissions of anthropomorphic origin. Ebullience and dejection; unruliness and bleakness. Long declining tones evoking the image of chemtrails in an already greyish sky. The awareness of a concealed power dictating the degree of our involvement with an obscure reality. And yet, a glance towards the scarce luminous openings warrants a modicum of hope in the attempt to survive decently, at least in the next future. The realism remains intact throughout, even when the sounds become unidentifiable. Think Luc Ferrari, Jim O’Rourke, John Duncan, the CONET Project, but just as vague references. Because, slowly but surely, Block is reaching the higher floors of the acousmatic palace by no other aid than her perceptive depth and uncommon talent.
(*) From label honcho Jason Lescalleet: although very few copies result available from the label at the moment, about 400 copies of the record can still be purchased in selected local record stores, or online at Forced Exposure in the USA and Metamkine in Europe.