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Block Ice & Propane

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Album Review

Summer family road trips can be hell on wheels or pure bliss; for Erik Friedlander it was obviously the latter. No whining, "Are we there yet," from him or his younger sister, both happy to while away the hours reading, chatting, and watching the miles slowly melt away. Besides, where was "there"? The answer, an uncle's farm in Washington state, a college town, or a scenic spot where his professional photographer father would teach or shoot. There was nowhere in particular, thus it was the journeys themselves that resonated in Friedlander's memories, eventually giving impetus to this languid, introspective album. The scenery shifts, the moods change, but the thoughtful atmospheres remain, as the cellist conjures up the very feel of the past. Some of the pieces quiver with anticipation, like "King Rig," which opens Block Ice and Propane in a surge of excited strums, like a gypsy dance of delight to be back on the road. "Airstream Envy" is equally up-tempo, a race the Friedlander family could never win in their Chevy truck, always left in the slip-stream of far faster vehicles. Much of the album, though, is given over to slower, highly atmospheric pieces, like the moody "Night White," the cheery title track, the more majestic "Rushmore," the homey "Yakima," or the delicately etched "Valley of Fire," good times one and all. There were low points as well, times when the family were just plain "Road Weary," fed up with "Cold Chicken," and felt like it was all too much, a feeling reflected on the discomfiting "A Thousand Unpieced Suns." Friedlander evokes it all exquisitely, a journey back to the past across a wide-open country that no longer exists, all wrapped around the dreams of youth. It's a picture of Americana at once familiar, yet unlike anything heard before, as the musician coaxes his cello into the aural shape of banjos and fingerpicked guitars; a truly astounding set.

Customer Reviews

Cello master Friedlander creates rawly beautiful moods

Having grown up traveling all around the USA myself, I can identify with this artist. I heard this on NPR and had to get it- Friedlander can make his cello sing, hiss, growl and everything in between... I love how he uses pizzicato so much to make it ring and glow. You can feel the mood in each song- my faves are King Rig, Dream Song, Night White, Block Ice and Propane, Rushmore, Yakima and Valley of Fire- they're the most melodic.This is more of a "I crave to hear this song" CD than a background music CD, but I'm a big fan nonetheless. Great roadtrip tracks. Check it out!

Great cellist, amazing album

I play the cello myself, and I think Erik Friedlander's creativeness shows in this album. I love his use of pizzacato throughout the songs. This album is amazing.

Astonishing. Beautiful. Unique.

The first I read of Mr. Friedlander's new album was in the NY Times Arts section. I was aware of his previous work, and had some of it, but the sound samples of this had me intrigued. As a bonus, Mr. Friedlander played a show in our city shortly before the album was released. We attended, and were delighted. It might be the live music event of the year for us. As for the record, it is incredible. Mr. Friedlander evokes the best of Americana in a unique format. Some of it evokes traditional folk, at least one track is reminiscent of John Lurie's film soundtrack work, and all of it is terrific. Breakout cuts: "Block Ice & Propane" and "Yakima", but they're all great. If the description "solo cello" sounds stodgy to you, one listen to Block Ice & Propane will cure you of that notion. Buy it. Now. You will not regret it.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Cellist Erik Friedlander grew up exposed to R&B and jazz since his father photographed many album covers for Atlantic during the '50s and '60s. During his childhood and high school years, Friedlander was involved in chamber groups, his school orchestra, and a local rock band. He enrolled at Columbia University in 1978 to pursue a music degree, but it wasn't until a year later, upon hearing and speaking with bassist Harvie Swartz, that Friedlander decided to become a professional musician. Shortly...
Full Bio
Block Ice & Propane, Erik Friedlander
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Customer Ratings