Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: Paw Tracks
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Experimental
In his book Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks discusses a phenomenon sometimes called dystimbria. Sufferers of dystimbria are unable to hear musical notes and melodies in the way most people can. Unwitting victims of these symptoms find listening to any type of music analogous to, in Sacks’s words, “pots and pans being thrown around the kitchen.” The members of Black Dice seem to be in an accelerated state of dystimbria.
Brooklyn-based experimental electronic trio blows fuseOn their sunnily deranged new album, Repo, Black Dice somehow manage to do away with context entirely, constructing music comprised solely of sound effects designed and recorded themselves. The bass boings, the electronic textures unwind like springs, drums go haywire, filters sweep and pitches bend, volume levels abruptly peak. The result is a manic cartoon-scape of technology gone wild, burping and burbling along cadences so asymmetrically syncopated and spastic that they’re not really measuring time, at least not as we know it.
It's still a stretch to talk about Black Dice as a formalist collective, but the Brooklyn band's migration from loose noise to something more structured counts as one of the most intriguing narratives in the art-rock underground. In the beginning, around the turn of 2000, Black Dice became notorious for playing antagonistic post-hardcore punk shows in dramatically darkened rooms. It was a badge of honor to have gotten hurt, or at least certifiably scared, during one of their lashing affairs, which rated as physical ordeals as much as aural experiences.
Trying to really focus on Repo, the latest from Brooklyn’s Black Dice, is a bit like trying to stare at the stars and shapes you see when you close your eyes, or the shimmer from a hot road. The harder you stare, the less you see. At the same time, if you unfocus just enough, and try not to think about it, you’ll tumble into a world of halucinatory delights.
Over the last few years, young writers who work primarily online have seen their professional lives and social lives intersect. In my case, the day job involves scouring the sort of blogs I might enjoy frequenting in my free time, or monitoring what should be the purely puerile Twitter. I have a personal Twitter account, but rarely use it because … well, it doesn’t pay.
The cover art to Black Dice‘s latest album looks beckons the listener to “go where new experiences await you.” It appears to be the defaced cover of a garage rock LP (supposedly by the Kingsmen although I have never seen the original even after much searching for it). The band members’ faces have been replaced with something resembling paint splatter or melted ice cream with thumbtacks to suggest eyes. The most startling thing about this, at least to me, is that the centermost member stands with hands folded as if awaiting the listener’s judgment.
Brooklyn's Black Dice may be inextricably linked to their Animal Collective label heads, but it's a comparison that serves the experimental trio well. Whereas Animal Collective has softened with pop precision, Black Dice's fifth studio LP burrows deeper into the electronics toolshed, restlessly rolling between the undefined extremes of Lightning Bolt's noise attacks and Aphex Twin's bizarre beats. While Repo jump-starts smooth enough with the skuzzed samples bleating through "Nite Creme," the infectiously funky warp of "Glazin" gives way to an industrial stomp and grind that begins to unravel into darker territory.