Eric Copeland is no stranger to the abstract. In fact, as a member of Black Dice, he’s part of a crew that revels in it. In the time since the band’s 2005 album for DFA, Broken Ear Record was released, a lot has changed in both a musical and fiscal sense for the label. And just as the label keeps chugging along, so does Copeland. With each release he becomes significantly more sample-based and approachable; but although Joke In The Hole is an enjoyable listen, it’s by no means an easy one.
At times Copeland’s work resembles what I imagine a strung-out Theo Parrish would sound like. Following an open framework, sample upon sample is layered until all that remains is a jumble of drums and melodies. He opts to play the novice even though his years of practice make him more than capable of crafting a polished product. Whether on “Tinkerbell” or “Babes In The Woods,” each track has a central theme, which Copeland snatches and manipulates to the brink of destruction. Enthrallingly, the album toes the tightrope between unintelligible noise and experimental production that more than a handful of musicians have fallen off of.
It’s not difficult to see why Joke In The Hole will be off-putting to some. At times it feels like it’s not much more than a series of loosely held together ideas or a soundtrack to a made-for-TV movie desperately trying to push boundaries. It’s unlikely that either were Copeland’s intended goal. Much like the work of Black Dice, the record is bathed in immaturity; from the dilapidated source material on standouts like “Cheap Treat” to the kitschy album artwork, which looks like an outtake design from Broken Ear Record. After all these years, Copeland still hasn’t grown up much, and people will either love him or hate him for it.