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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Olivia Block - Untitled (Another Timbre, 2017) ****½

By David Menestres

In her recent email newsletter, composer Olivia Block discusses the word “imagine” in relation to how it was used by Pauline Oliveros. As Block says “Without imagination there can be no solutions to problems, and there can be no understanding of what might be.” Untitled is the new album from Olivia Block, released on the Another Timbre label, long known for its support of the many facets of the new music scene. 

Comprising three movements, Untitled is constructed almost entirely from live recordings using prepared piano at Chicago’s Electrical Audio studio. Unlike many of Block’s other works, this album features relatively little post-recording processing. As she states in an interview on the Another Timbre website, “the lack of title reflects the fact that the suite is more direct, and in a sense, bare, of layers or extra elements. It’s basically just me playing piano and objects.”

What one hears is Block’s imagination stripped to its essence, reflecting the watery depths of the infinite. Large passages are for solo piano unadorned, played beautifully by Block. There are contact mics inside the piano to pick up the internal sounds and the prepared alterations. A small speaker sits inside the piano, drawing out and extending the piano’s timbres into other realms of being, showing what might be or perhaps what could have been.

From the opening heavily accented high notes to the final sparse pianissimo notes, Untitled is the most intimate of Block’s albums, a journey well worth your time. Climb the mountain, sit on the peak, and listen to what Block whispers in your ears.