The musician Olivia Block, seated, looking toward the left and down in a black and white photo
Olivia Block in 2019 Credit: Patrick Monahan

Local sound artist Olivia Block has created most of her albums with years of painstaking work in her home studio, so you might not expect that lockdown life would bring about profound changes in her music. But Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea, released this month by Room40, is unlike anything else in her discography. After the pandemic sank her touring schedule in 2020, Block retreated to a circumscribed existence that included remote teaching, reading books about ecological disaster, practicing her keyboard technique, and contemplating the flora in her backyard. She also stepped up her consumption of magic mushrooms. The resulting psychedelic experiences heightened her feelings of empathy toward and connection with the many beings who spent the year fighting for life, as well as allowing her to cultivate her consciousness of sound as a physical force. Many of Block’s past works are composites of found sounds, fragmented ensemble passages, and electronic processing that draw attention to their own abstraction. But inspired by her experiences on mushrooms, she began playing bass-heavy, repetitive figures on her Korg organ. Some of the pieces on Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea unfold with eerie patience, while others achieve a monomaniacal drive reminiscent of the band Suicide. Several more are wreathed with synthesizer tones as bright and fragile as frost on a windowpane; others are threaded by the queasy voice of a broken-down mellotron, which heightens the music’s sense of foreboding. The album plays out like the soundtrack to a dystopian sci-fi film. Its first tracks are named in memory of animals abused or killed in cold war research, while others invoke the human and environmental dimensions of a period in the planet’s history that was already feeling pretty tragic before the virus showed up. To present the album in full, Block will lead a trio with Paige Alice Naylor on vocals and synthesizer and Adam Sonderberg on additional synthesizers. Also on the bill are Matchess, the project of local multi-instrumentalist and composer Whitney Johnson, who will perform a new piece of slowly morphing sine waves and cassette loops, and Jon Mueller, who has pivoted from his recent percussion compositions to improvisational music that uses his drum kit to respond to a room’s acoustic properties.

Olivia Block, Jon Mueller, Matchess, Tues 11/30, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $10, 21+