At turns infuriating and sublime, Black Dice’s 15-year-long career of bizarre misanthropy has a surprisingly intelligible trajectory to it. The Brooklyn noise-rock band began as a hardcore-leaning act, famous for coaxing blood out of the pit, before transforming its style into something kraut-space-ambient-y for 2002’s DFA-pressed Beaches And Canyons. Despite the zenned-out peacefulness associated with some of these latter transcendental genres, the band managed to maintain its sense of violence and abrasion. By 2005, Black Dice had abandoned its projects of improvised soundscapes for more compact “songs” that could be considered dance music (to a paranoid schizophrenic).
The group’s sound trajectory begins at anti-structure and progresses closer and closer to an approximation of forms, with contorted noise being the major focus. We find Black Dice at the apex of structure with Mr. Impossible. Every song has a beat, often a funky one, and there are discernible “parts” to each composition, a first for the band. The mood is similar to previous excursions, a kind of childish recklessness, an obsession with the gross and fringe, playful tropes that can be found in equal measure with early Ween, Boredoms and Butthole Surfers. When it works, the noises are strange and exciting, like discovering a dead animal as a child, all over a danceable groove. When it doesn’t, it just sounds like a drunken jam sesh over fucked up Casio drum loops.
It’s something of an achievement that Black Dice has managed to craft a record both difficult and accessible, but the non-melodies wrung out of noise aren’t really infectious enough to merit Black Dice’s new-found formalism. I could see all of this lending itself to a very entertaining, raucous and cathartic live show, but it doesn’t make for a great home listen. On that front, I find the band’s earlier filth-as-psychedelically transportive musings far more interesting. But bring on the noise and inebriants: The album indicates that the live show should be among the best the punk ethos can offer, without being punk rock at all.