|Profile: Synthetic Block
After refining his talent for composition, rhythm and electronic timbres in the now legendary cassette underground of the '80s, Jonathan Block had his first full length CD released by the Mindspore label in 1998. The self-titled Synthetic Block album was a curiosity in the midst of a more techno-influenced catalogue.
Describing his music as Progressive Ambience, Synthetic Block demonstrates his ability as a composer by effectively combining the past with the modern- classic spacemusic merged with chillout room sensibilities; his talent as a synthesist- musical statements expressed through synth programming craft; and insight as a musician- the interesting, cohesive mix of infectious, mild techno beats with the shimmering sequencer patterns of pre- sampling technology.
After the debut CD, Synthetic Block's music turned up on various anthologies and in 1999 he began "shopping" a new studio album to prospective labels. As many muscians in the spacemusic community have discovered, it is very difficult to attract interest to a new project that is so much of a meltdown of genres as to be in and of itself totally unique. Ultimately, The Opposite of Staring Into Space was released in Autumn of 1999 on Block's own Ironing Board label.
The Opposite of Staring Into Space continues in the style set down on the debut self titled CD by Synthetic Block. With references to the past like the brittle sound of mellotron flute and percolating analogue sequencer cycles completely in sync with modern electronic percussion and harmonically complex samples, The Opposite of Staring Into Space rises above its technical attributes. Layers of rhythms and chord shifting patterns that slowly arise out of a spacey intro comprise the typical track. With little in the way of tension and release, the CD still engages the listener - much in the same way visiting a favorite destination engages the traveller.
With regard to live performances, Synthetic Block embraces the challange of translating his music into this difficult and unpredictable environment. Of the live setting he says, "Playing live is at least half the reason why I'm involved in music. For me, it gets pretty boring holed up in the studio unless I know there will be a live outlet somewhere down the road". Block's concert audiences are advised to experience the event without the restraints usually implied by western venues, "I make it a point, at the beginning of a show, to tell folks that they don't have a responsibility to sit in their chairs and stare at me- they can move around, I really don't care. It's never been a distraction", offers Block. Along with his live electronic music, occasionally Block will read aloud his original poetry. "Quite haunting" according to Progression magazine.