Synthetic Block - Sonic Approach
2003. This Hypnos/Binary debut by Synthetic Block blends "classic EM" elements with a more modern approach. It was mastered by Dave Fulton (who also played on one track) and is sonically amazing. One of the best things about running a small record label is the opportunity to help expose more people to artists like this one, whose work merits much wider exposure. Give it a listen!
Track list with MP3 samples:
Variations on a Theme of Absence
The Quartz Marsh
Bed of Sphinxes
The Square Triangle
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Reviews"Taking a Sonic Approach that lies somewhere between ambient and progrock, Synthetic Block steers his impeccable creations into realms which blend the atmospheric with the musical.
Depending on the ear of the beholder, the initial moments of Variations On A Theme Of Absence could be prettily eerie or utterly serene (I find them both!) but in a spacey vein regardless; the track grows more musical, with a slow bass groove, even. The soft, clambering notelets, faint rhythmics and gossamer sheens of Sonic Approach warp into a free-flying celestial mode, taking a bass-powered detour toward its more-shapeless close.
Doused (12:53) begins as smooth sheets rise and fall in extended flutters; later, low, tuneful riffs unfurl against long-reaching curtains of spectral softness, while buoyant bass flits beneath; the track lands in its own little sea of tranquility. Bed Of Sphinxes rolls on electric crests of a symphonic nature; when these lush waves segue into The Square Triangle, they are topped by interlocking synth motifs of tweedling leads and pulsing lows with caressing overtones.
A pair of short interludes finish the disc; dazzling little Inevitable (2:59) oscillates and levitates on crystalline notes and sweeps, then becomes Sonic Recall via a more-deeply twisting strand which burrows into toneshifting clouds, etched with sporadic cymbal activities.
Pretty... spacey... and sometimes so crispy clean it seems a bit sterile, though when soundcapes are this gorgeous, that's a niggling point. Synthetic Block merges fluid melodies into starlit ethereality with his gentle Sonic Approach. A-"
--David Opdyke, The AmbiEntrance
"I cannot believe that there is not more feedback regarding "sonic approach". upon receiving my radio promo the first note on track 1 totally captivated me. block approaches sonic sounds immediately and never slows. and, of course, fulton pulls some tricks. "square triangle" is my top playlist pick because of it's well defined and energetic change in tempo and musical registration. all tks are getting air and well deserving of such. are you guys collaborating with the russians? are you on the same interstellar link? very few composers are in touch with the same deep grooves and beats (nearly industrial), but very melodic. not wanting to pass judgement, or anything, but "sonic approach" & "fields" are two HYPNOS/BINARY tops. thank you my friends..."
--Flyingdude, WAWL Radio host, on the Hypnos Forum
"There has been quite a gap between the release of Jonathan's 2nd release The Opposite of staring into Space and this brandnew one. Sonic Approach (8 tracks, almost 60 min.) has been worth the wait, offering another blend of classic electronics & the sophisticated infusion of modern approaches, so-called "Block-treatments". Next to the flowing passages there are sequenced , more structured parts leading the way, but there's always this lush, adventurous feel showing up during the whole record. The music delves into spacious territory (Quartz Marsh) but the tracks also show distinct traces of Berliner School (Square Triangle), the vast soundlayers sometimes even reminding of Schulze in his '70- period. The later absolutely applied for the nice solo-sounds in the 12-minute track Doused. All these elements make listening to Sonic Approach a very enjoyable experience, in which you actually experience electronic music of former times get connected to the present. Well done !
--Bert Strolenberg, KLEM Magazine, The Netherlands
"Synthesist Jonathan Block, who records as Synthetic Block, has released three albums as a solo act, but this is the first one of his recordings I have reviewed. Sonic Approach is a unique combination of Berlin school sequencer-style EM, melodic floating spacemusic textures, and some subtly abstract qualities as well. The result is music that is complex in the best possible ways, as it shifts between various moods and styles on each track's journey from inception to completion. Some of the eight selections are shorter (in the three to four minute range) while others span out to as long as nearly thirteen minutes. Regardless of the length, though, each cut offers up music that is well-engineered, thoughtfully composed, and artfully performed.
"Variations on a Theme Of Absence" opens amid a swirling sea of darker tinted synths and evolves into a pulsing neo-futuristic sequenced track, brimming with both retro electro-fluidity and cybernetic energy. "The Quartz Marsh" shifts gears, painting a forbidding soundscape - an eerie miasma of dark whirlpools laced with zapping electrons and twinkling bell tones. The tracks on Sonic Approach segue directly into one another, but each selection is separate and distinct so that only the bridging sections create continuity (although there are similar sounds and moods throughout the entirety of the CD). The title track matches percolating synth with wailing horn-like notes and an undercurrent of dramatic washes; this is one of more dynamic songs on the album and would make ideal highway cruising music. While there is some unmistakable familiarity to Berlin school motifs, Block's style (here and on other tracks as well) uses the Germanic subgenre as a mere starting point, not as a destination (he shares this compositional aim with a few others artists, such as Paul Ellis, as opposed to those who follow the tenets of Berlin music theory more closely, e.g. some of the artists on Groove Unltd.).
Among the three shorter tracks, "Bed of Sphinxes" is sparse from a melodic standpoint, being more overtly electronic and textural in nature (although very cool in a SF way, with its reverberating electric pulses and circuitry-ish sounds), while "Inevitable" has a shiny pristine quality to it, as well as a quirky clipped sense of rhythm. "Sonic Recoil" ends the album as a reprisal of the some of the earlier musical themes from the CD in a deliberately-paced fluid mass of electronic tones and textures, slowly introducing stately Berlin-esque rhythms towards the end and then fading everything out into nothingness.
Sonic Approach amply demonstrates Jonathan Block's imaginative vision of a contemporary direction for EM by integrating subtly abstract (yet accessible) elements with more mainstream Berlin school structures and sounds. Some tracks on the album have a rich cinematic characteristic and others are draped in neo- and/or retro-futurism. I enjoyed the album the more I played it, as (like so many "pure" electronic music releases) its compositional depth is revealed slowly, rewarding the patient listener. While less emotionally involving than, for example, the works of Dom F. Scab or Ron Boots, Block's album still presents music that offers an enjoyable experience and represents time well spent exploring its assorted pathways. Recommended."
-- Bill Binkelman, windandwire.com
"Jonathan Block is a poet in every sense of the word. Recording as Synthetic Block, he creates beautiful verse with his synthesizer and manipulations. Sonic Approach, his third release and Hypnos debut, is his best work by far. He has always combined deep drones and vast atmospheres with Berlin school sequences and rhythms. He does it again with an intense flair and smooth segues. While there are eight tracks on this disc, Block's techniques and style treat the set as one long-form (58-minute) composition. Dave Fulton, of Dweller at the Threshold, mastered and did the post-production engineering. He also contributed some analog synth work. This CD is a masterful example of the Binary mission -- excellent retro e-music with modern digital enhancements. It will appeal to fans of Rudy Adrian, Paul Ellis, Saul Stokes, and Ron Boots."
--AMG, reviewed by Jim Brenholts
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