Olivia Block, “Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea”
By Marc Masters · November 19, 2021 Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Olivia Block probably wasn’t the only person who used the pandemic lockdown as a chance to experiment with psychedelic drugs. The Chicago-based composer might be the first to make a whole album out of the experience, though. Regularly using mushrooms while listening to sounds, she found herself drawn toward “low tonal patterns,” inspiring her to build new pieces around bass lines played on her Korg synthesizer. Adding layers with tapes, field recordings, and a Mellotron, she turned her own grappling with Covid isolation into a kind of imaginary sci-fi soundtrack.

The result, Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea, certainly provokes intense feelings of seclusion. Take “Laika,” where foamy waves of static evoke an empty beach in winter, and dramatic, string-like swells could score a mental breakdown. But there are many other relatable emotions conjured by Block’s dense, ever-changing tracks. The pulsing rhythm of “En Echelon” suggests persistence in the face of danger, while the bright, soaring tones of “Through Houses” spray sonic light into the album’s dark tunnel. Throughout, Block’s bass patterns reappear in different forms, grounding her kaleidoscopic explorations and showing vividly how disorienting experiences can be made sense of through art.

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