After many impressive EPs spanning over eight years, Art Block releases his debut album, Stones and Fire. He has carefully assembled ten tracks that are special to him. Some listeners might find them familiar as some are from his recent releases. However, for new listeners, it offers the perfect gateway into the musical world of Art Block. He says the album “speaks boldly and intimately about themes of childhood, war, mortality, isolation and lost love”. It feels like a personal collection of songs where the emotional tone of his words and their sound is a common theme. His lyrics are honest and do not hold back. Some discuss feelings that will be close to home for many.
These are all shared with a delicate vocal display equally impressive as his storytelling qualities. This partnership supports a rich soundtrack that sees Block showcase his skills on piano and guitar. To help add more depth to sound and emotion, he has enlisted the talents of Jo Quail (Cello), Maria Kroon (Violin), Sandra Brus (Violin), and Raphael Bouchara (Drums). As an added bonus, it also features some mesmerising electronic elements. To help fine-tune things a little further came Jay Chakravorty (string arrangements), Ian Barter (production) and Shuta Shinoda (musical director and mixing by Shuta Shinoda).
Each track offers something different, but all shine a spotlight on the various talents of Art Block. For example, the musical arrangement of the title track, “Stones and Fire”, is mesmerising from start to finish. It begins with Block using a grand piano to create a tender and beautiful mood. His voice mirrors the delicate tone with the opening lines, “When I find where to go, where to go / When I search all the streets I find you there”. As it progresses, extra layers are added by violin (Maria Kroon), cello (Jo Quail) and clarinet (Jay Chakravorty). What makes this moment more impressive is the space that lets everything breathe. The music and lyrics move at their own pace. With no urgency, they take the time to let the story and song progress in a natural manner.
‘Stones and Fire’ is the perfect showcase of the musical talents of Art Block
Whenever you listen to any songs by Art Block, his impressive way with words has always been a constant. An excellent foundation that features throughout this album, including “Saviour”. It sets the stage with his piano and Sandra Brus’ violin. Then, his gentle vocals join in with, “You were a saviour / I was at sea / A thunder erupted / Through broken trees”. As the story continues, the lyrics feel honest as it talks about mistakes and pain. However, he also reminds us, “Whatever don’t kill you / Makes you stronger”. It is one of many great examples of his way with words.
There are no weak moments throughout Stones and Fire. The challenge will be selecting your favourite. Each song will speak to you differently, making each playthrough a different experience. One that continues to stand out consistently is “The Basement”. From the start, its gentle guitar compels you to listen in a subtle way. It sets the mood for the opening lines, “When the ocean opens up like / I don’t see the fire / Tell me what I know”. These words and those that follow are all shared in a delicate manner that feels like heartache.
As the song progresses, the additional electronic elements enrich the delicate ambience even more. It seems to add more emotion to his words. It helps to give more of an impact to its hook, “Someone left my heart / Someone left my heart / In the Basement / Cmon take it out / Cmon take it out / Of the Basement”. As it approaches its finale, the mood softens further. In doing so, the lines, “Tell me what you see / I’m not the same man I was supposed to be”, concludes the track in an unforgettable way.
Stones and Fire is a fantastic album that has a lot to offer. It is the perfect showcase of the songwriting talents of Art Block, with his soundtrack that shares as much emotion as his heartfelt words. It is a beautiful collection of songs that is worth your listening time.