Care for Some Impossible Music?
Getting Up to Black Dice’s Post-Human Avant Boogie
Black Dice - "Pinball Wizard
Black Dice have spent the past decade creating some of the most delirium-scented, ear-tricking, and vertiginous music in this tragically flawed world. The Brooklyn trio filters its sounds through shattered funhouse-mirror effects and shapes them into kaleidoscopic vistas that only remotely resemble what our cultural gatekeepers classify as rock and electronic music. Nothing straightforward or undistorted ever has emanated from Black Dice’s studio, save for the tranquil ocean sounds in the coda for “Endless Happiness” from 2002’s Beaches & Canyons. After extensive exposure to their catalog, I have to conclude that Black Dice (brothers Bjorn and Eric Copeland and Aaron Warren) exist beyond genre, and probably beyond understanding. It’s no surprise that I always need psychiatric care after writing about these guys.
Somehow, through the good graces of James Murphy’s DFA Records and Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks imprint, Black Dice achieved a high profile in the ’00s, despite sounding like a Boredoms/Residents mashup occurring in the mind of Salvador Dalí during a paranoiac episode. Albums like 2007’s Load Blown and 2009’s Repo revealed an increasing interest in semi-danceable rhythms, albeit those bolstered by spasmodic junkyard beats that refuse to mix well with other artists’ tracks. (Any DJs have the guts to drop “Ultra Vomit Craze” into their sets? Thought not.) But with their new full-length, Mr. Impossible, Black Dice maybe have become too strange even for Panda Bear and company, which maybe explains why the newer Ribbon Music issued this one.
“Pinball Wizard” sets the tone on Mr. Impossible with grotesquely misshapen vocals over warped kazoo warbling and pistoning beats that sound hollowed out and filled with laughing gas. You know from the outset that Black Dice are going to overload your senses with their years’ worth of accumulated gadgetry, all geared to subvert your equilibrium and threaten your sanity. Tracks like “The Jacker” and “Pigs” seemingly want to make you dance, but in ways you’ve never imagined before—in ways that require extra double-jointed limbs and methed-up reflexes.
Throughout Mr. Impossible, Black Dice appear to be pranking club music, but not in a juvenile way. Rather, they’re exaggerating and distending its mannerisms in order to attain new rhythmic and textural forms and to trigger unprecedented emotions. Are you post-human enough for Black Dice?