Art Block is an alternative folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in East London, England. A prolific artist, he’s been making beautiful music for a number of years, and has released an impressive number of singles, EPs and remixes since early 2015, beginning with his debut L.A.-inspired single “Los Feliz”. I’ve featured him three times on this blog, the first time in November 2019 when I reviewed his enchanting song “The Basement”. The song has become his most successful to date, amassing over 290,000 streams on Spotify, which is notable in light of the fact he not represented by any label or management. A year later, I reviewed his lovely single “Borderline”, then this past March, I included his single “Pilgrim” in a post about my having been a moderator for Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net blog.
Now he returns with a new EP titled White Horses EP, featuring three tracks he says were “inspired by the beauty of nature but also touching upon war, themes of death, loss and the bitter sweet nature of human existence.” The EP was recorded at Super Symmetry Studios in Hackney, utilizing a mix of both analog and digital sounds that give the songs incredible texture and depth. William Robertson aka Wheeliemix produced, mixed and engineered the EP using Moog synthesizers, as well as played acoustic guitar, Raphael Bouchara played drums, and Sandra Brus played violin. Mastering was done by John Webber (David Bowie, Duran Duran). Art Block created the beautiful cover artwork for his EP using a photo he’d taken of the English countryside.
In addition to beautiful melodies and captivating arrangements, a defining aspect of Art Block’s songs are his tender, heartfelt vocals. With his incredibly emotive singing voice, he has the ability to convey a deep sense of sorrow and despair, which is on full display on all three songs. The first track “Saviour” speaks of a relationship that saved him at first, but ultimately ended because of the hurt and pain they inflicted on each other: “It was a travesty. Unjust unliberty. Hurting those around you. Building walls between ourselves. We knocked our brains out cold. Drank from the cup untold. Floored by passion and the drink. Makes us do what we don’t think. You were a precious stone. Now I am all alone. I’m fading, yeah I’m fading. We dug our grave too soon.” It’s a melancholy but lovely song, highlighted by Art Block’s stunning piano and Sandra Brus’ mournful violin.
“White Horses” is another hauntingly beautiful piano-driven song with a somewhat similar vibe as “Saviour”, except Art Block’s vocals are more emotionally-wrought in the choruses. He says the song “was inspired by a beautiful place in England, but also by the attack in Mariupol Ukraine which was in the news, where I imagined I was going through the devastation there. Perhaps ‘White Horses’ is a metaphor for something else, greater, perhaps mystical or mysterious? The place I visited in England certainly had a mystical feel even though the White Horse itself etched into a hill was not ancient.” His lyrics are poetic and deep, touching on the terrifying randomness of death and suffering: “We bear our own cross. And the people may wonder why God’s left them alone? The wind is burning. There’s so much smoke cos’ you’re coughing up blood now. The poem has ceased. And the soil is all over me, I’m six feet deep.“
The bittersweet “Low Light” is both captivating and melancholy. Art Block’s vocals are downright heartbreaking here, perfectly conveying the intense pain and heartache of a relationship or friendship that’s falling apart, but not wanting to come to terms with it just yet: “A friendship ooh has crumbled. Ooh we’ve stumbled, as we break into dust. A fear I don’t wanna see. A light I don’t want feel. A low light I don’t wanna see. A change I don’t wanna make tonight.” Art Block’s piano is sublime, accompanied by airy synths, William’s shimmery guitar notes, Sandra’s subtle electric violin, and Raphael’s gentle drums and cymbals that evoke waves crashing upon rocks at the sea’s edge.
While it’s subject matter is decidedly bleak, White Horse EP is nevertheless a gorgeous little work. With its flawless arrangements, production and performances by everyone involved, the three songs are among Art Block’s finest yet. The EP was released exclusively on Bandcamp today, September 2nd, and will be released on most streaming platforms on the 23rd.