The Squid's Ear Magazine

Block, Olivia

Dissolution [VINYL + DOWNLOAD]

Block, Olivia : Dissolution [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (Glistening Examples)

Sound explorer Olivia Block reflects upon human "webs of significance" and the way electronic communication and recording technologies both improve and complicate those webs, in a remarkably detailed set of layered recordings contrasting clear and fragmented sound.

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Olivia Block-composer, performer

Lesley Swanson-flute

Shaun Flynn-clarinet

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

Dissolution comes housed in a single-pocket jacket with glossy UV coating and black poly-lined inner sleeves with a 12x12" vellum insert. Includes download card.

UPC: 659696423114

Label: Glistening Examples
Catalog ID: GLEX 1603LP
Squidco Product Code: 23247

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2016
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Experimental Sound Studio, in Chicago, Illinois, in January, 2015, by Alex Inglesian.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Dissolution is a reflection upon human 'webs of significance', and an investigation into the ways that electronic communications and recording technologies, both past and present, facilitate, complicate and transmute the formation of these webs. Sounds of shortwave radio, municipal broadcast recordings, fragments of found microcassette tapes, tones and instruments dramatize the fragility and failures of communication and language in shaping memory and experience. This album is dedicated to Adam Sonderberg, without whom I could not have completed this project."-"Olivia Block

"For a while it seemed like Olivia Block had settled into a method, even if her results were wildly unpredictable. But since her remarkable series of recordings for Cut about a decade ago, Block has gone to a number of new places. This release exemplifies this restless, relentlessly probing music development. It's bewitching, perplexing, and leaves a deeper impression with each listen.

You don't have to read the accompanying promotion to figure out rather quickly what themes are compelling Block. She's interested in fragmentary sound and density as conditions of contemporary human cultures, and what losses might ensue from this ubiquity. What's impressive, though, is that she explores this subtly, without didacticism, and, for all that is strange about this music, bids the listener to feel the resonance of these concerns through the sounds themselves.

The release is made up of two LP sides (though there's a third track if you cop the digital version). The first half of the piece reveals itself through little blurts and fragments of noise, radio static and tape-mangled voices. Immediately you get the sense, as with much of Marc Baron's recent work, that the relationship between foreground and background is crucial for block, as each element is framed (or, if you prefer, opposed) by all manner of signal distortion - flinty and skittering here, guttural there. The effect of all these details is ever changing, and relies heavily on your own perception and description (this being part of the point of meditating on the broader dissolution), from mangled magnetic tape to distorted metallophones to mass transport announcement system. With all the muffled, buried, and layered voices, I'm sometimes tempted to compare Block's work to Graham Lambkin, with whom she shares a similar sense of mischief. The waves of activity cool down, and the music expands into a deep resonant space, like some alien sheet metal factory framing a vibrating cell phone and sonar, backed by the high whine of feedback.

There's much to mull over here in terms of metaphor: the lonely outpost, the distant signal we can't quite identify. But the music satisfies on an immediate gut level too. I found this to be even more the case on the second of Dissolution's two main tracks. As it moves from its opening waves of hiss and multilingual phone operators to discordance and tongues of Babel, there seems to be some presence in the system that Block is documenting in her concern with technology, language, fraying connections and lost signals. As you get the sense of drifting, every so often the very lost-ness overwhelms things - for just when some musical element teases with the possibility of binding things together, it's this very thing that obscures the individual voices we strain to hear. Block hits us with an array of weird, unexpected effects: rubbed glass over human voices, the sound of a pistol using a digital piano for target practice, and then the soft sounds of someone cleaning up after dinner, a couple rooms away in that dilapidated house pictured on Dissolution's cover.

And then there's that bewitching final track (not on the LP), "May 31, 2016," where Block goes even further into nearly total silence. Though it's longer than either of the key tracks, it's far sparser. Only towards the end is there a brief, dense flare in an otherwise bleak course with only soft playback crackle, wobbly radio whine, and deep sonar pinging. It's lonely as hell out here, isn't it?"-Jason Bivins, Dusted Magazine

Dissolution comes housed in a single-pocket jacket with glossy UV coating and black poly-lined inner sleeves with a 12x12" vellum insert. Includes download card.

Artist Biographies

"Olivia Block is a media artist and composer. Her body of work includes sound recordings, audio-visual installations, performances, sound design for cinema, and scores for orchestra and chamber music concerts.

Over the last twenty years, Block has pioneered the utilization of audio field recordings and found materials in the realms of music and sound art. She combines field recordings, chamber instruments and electronic textures, resulting in mysterious and vivid electroacoustic sound pieces including Pure Gaze, Mobius Fuse, Karren, and others. Block creates multimedia installations and performances utilizing found sounds from micro cassette tapes, field recordings, video, and curated 35mm slides.

Block's work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architectural sound, and found/archival materials from the 1950's-1990's. Her work with expanded cinema and film artists has led to interests related to cinema sound, and visual phenomena like shadows and reflections. Block has developed a body of partially-improvised compositions for inside-piano with various materials, including metal pieces and shards of broken glass. Her scores for orchestra and chamber instruments emphasize timbre and dynamics. Her most recent orchestral pieces include portions of "easy listening" inspired music from the 1970's, playing underneath recordings of room ventilation, white noise and commercial spaces like malls. Her solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics, amplified objects, and piano, presented in a slow and deliberate gestural style that Steve Smith of the New York Times described recently as having "palpable sensations of volition and emotional involvement."

Block has performed, premiered and exhibited her work throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours in festivals including Incubate (Tilburg), Festival del Bosque Germinal (Mexico City), Sonic Light (Amsterdam), Kontraste (Krems), Dissonanze (Rome), Archipel (Geneva) Angelica (Bologna), Sunoni per il Popolo (Montreal), and many others. Additionally, she has presented work at the ICA (London), MCA (Chicago), La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, The Kitchen (NYC), ISSUE Project RoomExperimental Intermedia (Brooklyn), and TIFF (Toronto).

She has completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Berklee College of Music. Block has presented talks at additional universities in film, music, media arts, and anthropology departments, including Yale University, University of Chicago, and Indiana University.

Block has created sound installations for public sites and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, CONTEXT (Miami and NY), Millennium Park (Chicago), the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room (Chicago), and at the "Echoes Through the Mountains" exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy).

Her 2013 LP/download release, Karren (Sedimental, 2013) was chosen as "Best of 2014″ by The Wire, Pitchfork, and Artforum, among other publications. She was selected as a 2014 "Person of the Year" in the Chicago Reader. Aberration of Light, her latest solo release, is now available on NNA tapes. She recently completed her large-scale multi-speaker sound installation, Sonambient Pavilion, in Chicago's Millennium Park, utilizing sounds from Harry Bertoia's Sonambient sculptures. She is currently working on several projects, including a multi-speaker presentation of her forthcoming release, Dissolution (Glistening Examples), and pieces for piano and organ. Olivia Block is based in Chicago."

-Olivia Block Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:


1. Dissolution 17:06


1. Dissolution 14:14

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Compositional Forms
Electroacoustic Composition
Organized Sound and Sample Based Music
Trio Recordings
New in Experimental & Electronic Music
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