Broken Ear Record
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.
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.
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