Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Ribbon Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Experimental Rock, Noise-Rock
Brooklyn sonic alchemists Black Dice are one of those bands that started off seeming like they could go anywhere. Early singles and EPs focused on scream-laden hardcore and mixed noisy electronics with traditional guitars and drums. By the time of their proper full-length debut, 2002's Beaches & Canyons, they had become psychedelic explorers who smashed gentle drones against noise and turned it into something both violent and graceful.
Black DiceMr. Impossible[Ribbon Music; 2012]By Josh Becker; April 16, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIn terms of sonic evolution, I see parallels between Black Dice and Japanese noise collective Boredoms. Both groups began by producing abrasive, almost nonmusical noise rock; over time, both mellowed their styles and drew upon psychedelic, drone, and raga influences while retaining remnants of the frayed harshness that defined their earliest recordings.
From its inception, Black Dice has been undergoing something akin to reverse entropy. Beginning with unbounded slabs of free-range dissonance, the band has slowly been imposing order to its chaos, producing a string of albums which have gradually arced toward pop. Fittingly, Mr. Impossible, the group's sixth full length and first on Ribbon Music, is the most structured release yet.
In the past 15 years, a number of acts have attempted to bridge the great divide that exists between electronic music and dissonant noise. Over this time, Williamsburg trio Black Dice have polarized listeners, creating an insider scene that has been genuinely unique, progressive, and fully committed to turning music inside out. The experimentalists’ sixth outing, Mr.
Black Dice have been peddling (I wouldn’t say refining) their particular raucous take on art-rock for 15 years now, over the course of six studio albums and numerous singles, EPs and collaborations. From their early days playing a kind of post-hardcore thrash, through to their current incarnation they have always been a somewhat acquired taste, treading a fine line between tightly constructed experiments in sound and adolescent goofball tomfoolery. The new album contains its fair share of both elements of the band’s sound, sometimes with a degree of success, but often grating and a little tiresome.
BLACK DICE play Polyhaus Saturday (May 5). See listing. Rating: NNN Mr. Impossible is easily Black Dice's most accessible album yet, but that's not saying much. It's still very uneasy listening, even if the band is embracing its dance influences more explicitly, something that may piss off fans who ….
Black Dice’s music is never quite several different things, and the boor in us could almost get fighty with them about it. Having made their name on DFA Records in the mid-‘00s, the Brooklyn trio clearly crib from the weirder end of house and techno – but ‘Mr Impossible’, their sixth album, is intentionally disjointed, arrhythmic and wears boots of musique concrete. Equally, their reputation as noisy irritants precedes them, yet the insouciance of calling a track ‘Pinball Wizard’ (it’s definitely not a Who cover) doesn’t quite square with its insistent snare-crack, wah pedal massage and squishy synth buggery.
Over the last 15 years, NY art-punks Black Dice have gained a reputation for being both pulverizing and playful, creating brutal, noisy records filled with all kinds of weird and funny and fucked-up sounds produced with a kind of childish recklessness that only those with a real patience for experimentation can appreciate. Like every other Black Dice release, Mr. Impossible — its sixth LP and first for Ribbon Music, home to John Maus and Laura Marling — is loud and messy and notoriously abstruse.
Roaming the MoMA at age eight, I remember coming to the entrance of a second-floor gallery with a NO CHILDREN UNDER THIRTEEN warning painted in plain black letters. Its contents — the outlandish topography of sculptures and installation pieces I could make out in bits and pieces through the passageway — took on the dark baleful power of the inaccessibly adult. I took a defiant step in.
Black Dice isn’t exactly a band that you decide to listen to on a whim. Their sound is often described as “difficult” and “unique”, which is just music critic talk for saying that it’s just plain bizarre. With their newest release, Mr. Impossible, they’ve become even more opaque, despite tracks being neatly organized into short songs with motifs and patterns modeled after pop.
Attempts to classify the dependably unclassifiable Black Dice usually take the form of improbable declarations, somewhat in a similar vein to classic pub standard “I mean, when you think about it, even Throbbing Gristle do pop music”. Which is to say, it all gets a bit fishy, a bit too much like critical overreaching. No theory quite adds up.
At turns infuriating and sublime, Black Dice’s 15-year-long career of bizarre misanthropy has a surprisingly intelligible trajectory to it. The Brooklyn noise-rock band began as a hardcore-leaning act, famous for coaxing blood out of the pit, before transforming its style into something kraut-space-ambient-y for 2002’s DFA-pressed Beaches And Canyons. Despite the zenned-out peacefulness associated with some of these latter transcendental genres, the band managed to maintain its sense of violence and abrasion.