Black Dice

Broken Ear Record

Blood on the Wall


Various Artists:

Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets the Ind
ie Culture



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Broken Ear Record
DFA 2005

Buy it at Insound!

After the eclectic adventurism of the last few years, progressing from post-hardcore to post-punk and beyond, the Black Dice seem to be solidifying their aesthetics. Like last year’s Creature Comforts, Broken Ear Record once again locates the trio on the contemporary edge of the experimental noise-collage lineage fathered by Throbbing Gristle thirty years ago. On both records we find the Dice torturing synthesizers, looping sounds, bleeping, buzzing, phasing, and fuzzboxing. The difference here is not only that there is no folky “Treetrop” dreaming, but also that there is more artful repetition, rhythmic focus, and rounder compositions. To sum it up - while remaining fresh, playful, and challenging, while again sparing us from the kind of clutter we have grown accustomed to from other noise bands, Black Dice offer a little more to grab onto than last time. And I for one, a fella who’s used a whole heck of a lot of superlatives this week, think it sounds excellent and may just be the best thing I’ve heard by the band.

As far as I know, this entire thing takes place in a rusted out futuristic factory in which primitive early twentieth century machinery is run by twenty-fifth century robots. With “Snarly Yow” the record starts with the looped foundation of the assembly line. A stuttered dialogue is initiated by a worker in whom they installed the human voice tone from a cheap Casio. His supervisor David Yow responds through a bassy broken vocoder they implanted. Guitar feedback soon tears everything apart so that all is striped down to a tribal beat. A “Warm Leatherette” sound soars across the ceiling. After quite a bit of the in-and-out noise and mutation that can only mean robots copulating in the breakroom, all that remains in the landscape by this point is a random scatter of bleeps, distorted guitar fragments, and drills that you really know are synths.

“Smiling Off,” the single, finds the factory running at full-speed. Devo brings a simple melodic motif which might be a national anthem or merely a pop song. I don’t know because none of this has happened yet - but you hear it alternate between different instruments. The machines, like modern art, have pared the un-necessary away and find themselves where we started – naked, tribal, and chanting. De-evolution anyone?

Rude boys shouldn’t be deceived by the title “Heavy Manners” – no skankin’ here – only the restrained mellow comfort of the warmly muffled voice blaring through the intercom. It is eventually flustered by the entrance of harsher sounds. But maybe it is just a dream. And “ABA” is Pretty Paper length. It makes me want to go towards the light. Maybe if they put this thing on repeat for the rest of the workday chaos won’t ensue.

“Street Dude” loops a few layers of conversation before the rhythm reminds us once again that we in the retro-futurist factory. After a minute or two the camera zooms in one of the robot workers as we witness his reoccurring childhood pastoral dream. He soon snaps out of it though. But by this point work no longer proceeds as usual. Has there been an accident? Every so often I am comforted by the tones emerging from beneath the static on the radio.

The robot siblings, “Twins,” take a break to entertain their co-workers with a synchronized song and dance that seems to be nothing more than patty-cake. Our hero Alan Vega rides on “Motorcycle” and kung fu fights the factory police while the twins clap along. The robots are freed and there’s a great big ho-down. But, since the robots were made to work, the ironic ending has the newly liberated machines assume their respective positions on the assembly line and resume work.

At least that’s what seems to be happening here. If and when the Sci-fi folks get hip to these fellas, Black Dice won't just be about the most popular experimental band out there - they'll be millionaires....

© New York Night Train , 2005