By Zach Schepis
Image courtesy of David Block.
David Block is not the easiest person to get a hold of. For weeks we engage in a cat-and-mouse series of correspondences. Outgoing calls and messages bounce off of satellites orbiting opposite sides of the planet–missing their mark by narrow windows.
“I’m in India,” he tells me over the phone before rescheduling.
Turns out the songwriter, live electronic music composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer (yes, all of those at once) just wrapped up a festival in Bali. He premiered one of his sets to an eclectic audience numbering in the thousands and representing close to 50 different countries.
As if that weren’t cool enough, the festival stage happened to be erected out of the remains of an ancient temple.
Nothing seems more fitting for Block, a musical nomad in the truest sense of the word. When we finally do catch up he shares some of his recent travels. A New Year’s concert in Central America, followed by a tour through Guatemala and then a return trip to New York City are all but a few.
“It’s been an amazing year of traveling around the planet and getting to share music in different environments,” he tells BTR.
“That’s what I love about music–it can transcend language, you don’t need to speak the same words to share in that transformational experience.”
Block’s passion project The Human Experience is certainly transformational in its metamorphosis of styles, yet it also seeks to unify through a synthesis of seemingly disparate cultures. His most recent release via Jumpsuit Records, titled Embraced, features 12 original compositions each replete with its own unique collaboration. Traditional music from Latin America, South Africa, India, and many other regions are deftly cast into the mix through a series of musical guests that Block met while traveling.
The songwriter’s signature electronic stitching threads the alchemy into a congruent whole that feels like, well… an experience.
“I try to make every album be an album,” he says.
“Especially in electronic music, which is the category I seem to be grouped in these days. We’re in the age of the single, where people are downloading tracks instead of songs. Even though it’s small semantics, I do feel like there’s this really special thing when you’re able to get an album and you don’t have to change the song.”
Nothing happened overnight. In some ways Embraced has been in the works for the past decade. Years ago, as a 21-year-old personal fitness trainer, Block’s life was worlds apart from where it is today. He was composing and compiling fruitful bouts of material, but didn’t have a community of listeners to support his passion.
“Closet musician” is how he words it, recollecting from what must feel like a distance of light years.
Disheartened by a stagnant career in the fitness industry, Block decided to throw caution to the wind. In a fearless leap that any bored employee could only dream of, he simply quit his job and left the country.
Two and a half years later, Block’s instinctive travels on the pathways to rhythm left behind many a sun-kissed footprint. He became the international Jack Kerouac of buskers. If you happened to stumble into a little bar in Central America, a buzzing train station in Southern India, a cafe in Argentina, you might have heard the familiar rumblings of Block’s songwriting.
“My mother always told me that strangers are friends that you haven’t met yet,” he shares in a voice warmed by fondness.
While these formative years allowed Block to discover his voice as a songwriter, they also introduced him to a community of international musicians that he would call upon to help create Embraced. Culling from a gold mine of more than 150 original creations, Block picked a dozen that he had written during his travels and asked a different guest from a different country to join him on each one.
Every artist featured on the album is established and creatively adventurous in their own right, whether it’s the soulful folk fire of the sister duo Rising Appalachia or percussive contributions from Ignacio Perez Borrell–a surviving member of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club.
What’s more is that an open-eared and open-hearted respect between these musicians has blossomed through Block’s songs. Collaboration allows the artists to share the same breath of space with colorful diversity and overwhelming love.
With Embraced behind him, Block is still pushing onward with collaborative inertia that many songwriters struggle to establish with their own bands on the home front.
Some of his most recent endeavors include a dark avant-garde circus called Lucent Dossier, a guitar-driven concept album titled Black Lipstick (“think Quentin Tarantino on a lot of ecstasy”), and producing a six-piece electronic outfit known as Waves.
It’s a hell of a lot to take in, but Block makes it easy: each of his 12 albums is available online for free download.
“Hopefully it inspires you to share your gift,” beams Block. “That’s kind of the bigger picture with this music; to inspire other people to be inspired.”
To hear the rest of our interview with David Block, tune into this week’s episode of The Discovery Corner.
Or interpret the band for yourself by clicking here.