Wed Oct 5
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
In this time when every musical niche is lousy with earnest bands and solo artists angling for a minuscule sliver of attention, it becomes increasingly difficult for said bands/artists to bust through the morass of mediocrity clogging the portals. As you read this sentence, many talented musicians are creating masterpieces that will never be heard by you. Tragic.
Black Dice could've been one of those overlooked bands. But thanks to the acumen of key people at the Troubleman Unlimited and DFA labels, Black Dice's sui generis sounds now circulate through some of the world's biggest retailers. It's as if E. Elias Merhige's Begotten were screening at Suburban Multiplex USA.
How did Black Dice ascend to the underground's upper sphere? A breakthrough occurred for the trio between 2001's Cold Hands, an earthbound EP rooted in the Providence noise scene whence they sprang, and 2002's Beaches and Canyons, an oceanic wellspring of transcendental trippiness—with many thousands of hipsters digging Black Dice's transformations of the music of the spheres into equilibrium-upsetting anti-compositions. The band's "sound manipulator" Eric Copeland attributes this sea change simply to "time." Coy bastard.
The recent Broken Ear Record signals a strong rhythmic direction for Black Dice—but don't expect to hear anything off Broken Ear pistoning around typical dance clubs. "Smiling Off," the laughably radio-unfriendly first single, is full of Doppler-effected buzz-saw synths, enigmatic hiccupping, three-legged horseshoe clip-clopping, faux Native American chants, and tweaked Farfisa riffs. It eventually morphs into—new genre alert!—alien doo-wop techno.
Black Dice's press bio alludes to the darkness and troubles that surrounded the making of Creature Comforts and their subsequent tour. Bjorn Copeland said, "It got hard to be alienating people every single night. We wanted something that people could connect to more readily." But Broken Ear still sounds pretty alienating.
"Alienating?" Eric Copeland replies incredulously. "Some of it's a little alien, maybe! I don't care too much about accessibility. When those concerns start to dominate, I feel like I'm thinking about other people when I should be concentrating on what we're doing."
Whatever they're doing, it's uniquely challenging—and worth breaking your ears for.