Mon Nov 11
Have you heard the one where Black Dice assaults the streets of Brooklyn by blaring discordant noise through Marshall 800 Lead Series cabinets while riding in the back of a pickup truck? You have? How about the one where they cleared out that club in '97 after having been onstage for only five minutes? Heard that one, too? Black Dice's past might be tinged with urban legend, but it's their present that really matters. And I ain't talkin' about no birthday package. I'm talking about Black Dice's here and now. I'm talkin' about the fact that today, four thinking men are constructing an intelligent reaction to the stagnancy, polish, and distance that often permeates American rock music's core, even when that core appears to have made a pleasant shift back towards its soulful origin.
Speaking of reflection, Black Dice doesn't care about being a Brooklyn electro-Strokes-clash band in 2002/2003, and thank God for that. Instead of emphasizing style (no snotty black ties or striped tights here), Black Dice is a little like a train wreck--a beautiful, shocking mess. Past albums contain so much pedal-heavy abstract noise and piercing tonal interjection that they verge on the aurally offensive. Cacophonic circles of feedback, damaging bleeps, and jarring riff loops bleed together in a difficult blend of Throbbing Gristle-influenced hardcore and avant electronica that's as gorgeous as it is disastrous. While diluting the potency of their multi-genre noise blend isn't part of the equation, they're certainly making a change. Y'see, like other creative alarmists, the Dice realize that taking the low road helps to convey ideas when in-your-face behavior becomes expected or passe, and the band's new angle is their most narrative and epic yet. Black Dice's latest, Beaches and Canyons (on DFA, one of New York's few en vogue labels that's not full of it) explores fluidity and spaciousness more than any of the band's unlistenable efforts on Troubleman. Each track is longer than its predecessor, and with each intricately layered track comes a growing dynamism, and detailed sparkle never before realized by the quartet. Their agitation now soothed, beautiful walls of serenity and washy percussion make Black Dice's focused anti-rock digestible, even beautiful.
Sure, in the past, some of the very audience members Black Dice tried to affect were alienated instead. Now, that factor is substantially lower. And pretension? That's your call. This is a smarter, more skilled Black Dice, rather than a kinder, gentler one, and they deserve your attention more than ever.