Black Dice - Repo
Release Date: April 7th, 2009
Record Label: Paw Tracks
“Go where new experiences await you” reads a subtitle on the front sleeve of Repo, the new album by New York's Black Dice. In a desirable world, the quaint courtyard of my apartment complex could be lit up solely by the few scattered, dead-bug flooded streetlamps. However, the amount of flickering light radiating from the collective television presence in the surrounding rooms reminds me that this is not a desirable world, or else we wouldn’t spend 5-9 flipping through programs we won’t remember the following morning. We don't go where new experiences await us, unless Anthony Bourdain is in Saudia Arabia tonight -- in that case its microwavable pad thai for dinner again. This is why Black Dice translate as so immediately discomforting; they are a mirror reflecting a mirror, with all of the bullshit hype culture caught in between and launched back and forth and back and forth until everything is an incomprehensible mess of collage and collapse, like Thomas Pynchon’s mind liquefied and spat in your face. If the traditional concept of music as we hear it on the radio is to filter out all flighty influences until only stable rhythms and melodies exist, then think of this as music without that filter.
Genre? Well, if noise is noise to you and not music, then get in line and classify it as ‘noise.’ Though if Black Dice have proven anything with past perfections like “Things Will Never Be the Same” (off Beaches and Canyons) or “Creature” (off Creature Comforts), it is that havens aren’t always carved from walls of sound, sometimes they can be found in oceans. So while this whole noise movement is going the way of most movements, overboard with oversaturation, there are actual developments within its grasp, there is an actual purpose to some of it.
Repo is a good album, but not the band’s best. As the idea of hoarding “families” of effect pedals has fueled less and less floorspace in any given Brooklyner’s studio loft, the territory for exploration in experimental and noise genres will soon drastically diminish. Black Dice are still alive though after so many years of twisting knobs and alienating audiences. Songs like “Nite Cream”, “Earnings Plus Interest”, and “Ultra Vomit Craze” seem to have a newfound hip-hop injection, and the bouncy rhythms are for the most part is intact – as opposed to scattered inversions and fucked interpretations. “Nite Cream” sounds as slippery and raw as it reads, “Lazy TV” is a masterwork of samples and satire, and “La Cucaracha” is anything but its namesake. The album is noticeably shorter than prior outputs, but ideas like thirty-something second long “Buddy” and “Whirligig” are only as long as they need to be. For the still uninitiated, Black Dice are a hard band to follow, much less understand. It is cerebral songwriting in the most braindrained way possible. Succinct rhythms and samples evolve within nonsensical arrangements of churns, twangs, grinds, rumbles, and twirls. Not there yet? You're already lost.
If an album can flip the idea of television, or scary consumerism, or strange car obsessions on themselves in a way that is disorienting though still somehow satisfying, then that particular album, to me, is worth some notion of gratitude. Repo is a strange album, Black Dice is a strange band, but at the heart of every movement is the need to rebel. When 'indie rock' not only became a refuge from the mainstream, but a refuge for the mainstream then the desire for something so undesirable became necessary. Lo-fi became the objective instead of a restraint, noise grew in to more acceptable terms. Is there anything beyond this? Will there be a reasonable alternative once WQXR The Cool Breeze begins routining Lightning Bolt's "Dracula Mountain"?