Black Dice and Eric Copeland


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Black Dice (2000), 6.5/10
Beaches & Canyons (2002), 7.5/10
Creature Comforts (2004), 7/10
Broken Ear Record (2005), 7/10
Load Blown (2007), 6/10
Eric Copeland: Hermaphrodite (2007), 6.5/10
Eric Copeland: Alien In A Garbage Dump (2009), 5/10
Repo (2009) , 5/10
Eric Copeland: Strange Days (2010), 5/10
Eric Copeland: Waco Taco Combo (2011), 6/10
Mr Impossible (2012), 5/10
Eric Copeland: Limbo (2012):, 5/10
Eric Copeland: Joke In The Hole (2013) , 5.5/10
Links:

Formed in 1997 in Rhode Island (Bjorn Copeland on guitar, former Lightning Bolt's vocalist Hisham Bharoocha on drums, Sebastian Blanck on bass, Eric Copeland on vocals), New York-based Black Dice started out with an unlikely fusion of hardcore punk-rock and abstract electronica. Black Dice (Troubleman, 2000) was a mosaic of fifteen brief, untitled, frantic sonic experiments that blended Can, Wire and Sonic Youth. The mini-album Cold Hands (2001) moved away from the epileptic pace of that album and revealed a stronger sense of texture and atmosphere, although Birthstone continued the sonic assault.

Every sound is manipulated and deformed on Beaches & Canyons (DFA, 2002), which completely drops the punk pretenses and focuses on the experimental side of their art. This time the (five) tracks are sprawling jams and are basically entirely made up of sound effects. The quartet of vocalist Eric Copeland, guitarist Bjorn Copeland, keyboardist Aaron Warren and drummer Hisham Bharoocha, now sounds like a compromise between Throbbing Gristle's industrial soundscapes and Godspeed You Black Emperor's post-industrial streams of consciousness. The chaotic Seabird and especially the eleven-minute surrealist nightmare of The Dream Is Going Down were sculpted mostly with samples and loops rather than with real playing; musique concrete for the digital age. However, the tone was ironic rather than austere. There was a playful sense of iconoclastic critique underlying the collage. This is what the Fugs' Virgin Forest would have sounded like in 2002. The ten-minute Things Will Never Be the Same put those tools to work for a post-industrial music that used Brian Eno's ambient music and futuristic vignettes as the launching pad, and then ventured into a noisy mayhem of wailing babies, layered distortions, psychedelic drumming and a eerie coda of semi-silence. The 15-minute Endless Happiness is yet another beast altogether, mixing abstract electronic sounds with natural sounds and with Eastern-inspired instrumental meditations, and then blending everything into a tribal orgy. Its propulsive rhythm adds life to what looked like a lifeless world. The metamorphoses of the 16-minute Big Drop proceed in the opposite direction, from a semi-tribal bacchanal with sudden bursts of collective noise and desperate screams. This last primitive, relentless, rhythmic piece does not quite seem to coher with the previous four. Both the format and the style of this album were almost the opposite of how they started off.

The album was followed by the EPs Cone Toaster (DFA) and Lost Valley (Tigerbeat, 2003), and by the collaboration Black Dice & Wolf Eyes (Fusetron, 2003), an intense prog-rock jam that is more of a Black Dice album than a Wolf Eyes album.

The EP Miles Of Smiles (DFA, 2004) contains a tour de force of sound manipulation, the 13-minute Miles Of Smiles, and its dreamy remix, the 14-minute Trip Dude Delay.

Creature Comforts (DFA, 2004) continued the process of dissolving the textural unity of western music by altering timbres, confusing dynamics and diluting rhythms. The more it evolves towards abstraction, their instrumental music evokes the praxis (if not the style) of post-Webern classical music (but also of the very pre-Webernian Edgar Varese), post-free jazz and digital music. It links together experiments born in different milieus. It seems to reference Germany in particular, evoking textural and structural games played in the past by both German electronic progressive-rock and German digital glitch-music, and again Black Dice seem to link (this time across time) different generations (e.g., Faust and Oval).
The nine-minute Creature is a satori of free noise, a vast landscape of incoherent events for the musicians to roam and transform. The piece, being made of discrete sounds, is inherently percussive, sometimes sounding like little mammals failing to communicate to each other in their shrill languages. A rhythm emerges from the tension of the various parts. Language is, after all, the ultimate subject of Black Dice's research.
The 15-minute Skeleton begins with a jangled mass of warped instrumental sounds, like membranes of living organisms sensing the environment. The processing reduces them to a wake of wavering distortions of voices, and the decomposition continues until they simply sound like tolling bells. Then the piece pretty much restarts with a sequence of shapeless sounds that slowly coalesce into an organic mass of distortions. In the last of the 15 minutes we finally hear the instruments play regular music, as if the whole piece was a puzzle and now Black Dice gave us the solution.
Cloud Pleaser is a miniature of anemic strumming, found noises and dub reverbs. Treetops interlaces jackhammer rhythm, tiny dissonances, distorted melodies and childish noises. The harshest dissonances appear in Night Flight, that has also the strongest beat, sounding at the beginning like a parody of jazz improvisation. Then the alien-machine persona takes over and ends the album on a futuristic tone that was not quite the microscopic tone of the first tracks.
Most of the album is intent on crafting a new language, and the 15-minute Skeleton stands as its temporary lexicon, a black hole that collapses information and recycles it as pure radiation.
Black Dice mastered the techniques of the avantgarde and created a new kind of collage of post-industrial moods.

Broken Ear Record (DFA, 2005), the first album without Hisham Bharoocha, was a less disjointed exercise, although it still ran the gamut from eccentric to brainy to gratuitous. The more organic approach is already evident in the length of the tracks (four out of seven are extended pieces). The eight-minute overture Snarly Yo is a rhythmic experiment that manipulates the timbre of the instruments to produce pseudo-danceable polyrhythms. The nine-minute Smiling Off starts from there, from the artificial rhythm, and then elaborates a surreal synthesis of the primitive and the futuristic, juxtaposing a dadaistic ballet of electronic noise against distorted chants and tribal drumming. A comic quality and a trancey quality coexist and permeate each other. The noisefest of the seven-minute Street Dude even manages to create an anthemic "riff" out of the strummed chaos and mauled voices, approaching the demented intensity of Red Crayola. The sense of irony increases by the time one reaches the last track, the seven-minute gargantuan dance of Motorcycle, that evokes the psychotic "modern dance" of Pere Ubu.
These pieces are are framed by a more hysterical tone than the previous albums were. The music bounces around as if Black Dice wanted to test how far their formula can go when applied to more structured formats.

Load Blown (Paw Tracks, 2007) collects three EPs and occasionally rises up to the standards of the more cohesive three albums. At best it provides more classy demonstrations of their synthesis of melody, noise and beats (Manoman).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Ferruccio Tarraran)

Formatisi nel 1997 nel Rhode Island (Bjorn Copeland alla chitarra, Hisham Bharoocha ex voce dei Lightning Bolt alla batteria, Sebastian Blank al basso, Eric Copeland alla voce), i Black Dice, residenti a New York, iniziarono con una improbabile fusione di hardcore punk-rock ed elettronica astratta. Black Dice (Troubleman, 2000) era un mosaico di quindici brevi e convulsi esperimenti sonori senza titolo che miscelavano Can, Wire e Sonic Youth. Il mini-album Cold Hands (2001) si allontanò dallí andamento epilettico di quellí album e rivelò un più forte senso di spessore e atmosfera, sebbene Birthstone continuasse con lí aggressione sonora.

In Beaches & Canyons (DFA, 2002), ogni suono è manipolato e deformato, il che fa decadere in maniera completa le velleità punk e mira al lato sperimentale della loro arte. Questa volta i (cinque) pezzi sono sedute a ruota libera costituite in pratica da effetti sonori. Il quartetto della voce Eric Copeland, del chitarrista Biorn Copeland, del tastierista Aaron Warren e del batterista Hisham Bharoocha, ora somiglia a un compromesso tra i paesaggi sonori industriali dei Throbbing Gristle e i flussi di coscienza post-industriali dei Godspeed You Black Emperor, specialmente in Endless Happiness, un incubo di 15 minuti. Scolpiscono le loro canzoni principalmente con campionature e ripetizioni sonore (Seabird, The Dream Is Going Down) piuttosto che con un vero suonare. Il ritmi propulsivi aggiungono vita a un mondo meccanico. Sia la formula che lo stile sono quasi allí opposto dei loro inizi.

Lí EP Miles Of Smiles (DFA, 2004) contiene una grande dimostrazione di manipolazione sonora, i 13 minuti di Miles of Smiles e il suo fantasticheggiante remix, i 14 minuti di Trip Dude Delay.

Creature Comforts (DFA, 2004) continuò il processo di dissolvimento dellí unità strutturale della musica occidentale mediante lí alterazione dei timbri, il confondere delle dinamiche e il diluire dei ritmi. Più si evolve verso lí astrazione più la loro musica strumentale evoca la prassi (se non lo stile) della musica classica post Webern (ma anche dello stesso pre weberiano Edgar Varese), musica post free jazz e digitale. Unisce esperimenti nati in ambienti diversi. Sembra fare rifermento in particolare alla Germania, evocando giochi di intreccio e di struttura fatti nel passato sia dal rock progressivo elettronico tedesco che dalla musica glitch tedesca, ed ancora una volta i Black Dice sembrano collegare (questa volta nel tempo) differenti generazioni (e.g., Faust and Oval).

Creature, lunga nove minuti, è una illuminazione mistica di rumore libero da regole, un vasto panorama di eventi slegati che i musicisti percorrono e trasformano. Il pezzo, costituito da suoni distinti, è insitamente percussivo, a volte rimandando a piccoli mammiferi incapaci di comunicare lí uno con lí altro nei loro linguaggi striduli. Ed emerge un ritmo dalla tensione delle varie parti. Il linguaggio è, dopo tutto, lí oggetto primario della ricerca dei Black Dice.

I nove minuti di Skeleton iniziano con una massa stonata di deformi suoni strumentali, come membrane di organismi viventi che percepiscono lí ambiente. Lí elaborazione li riduce a una scia di tremule distorsioni di voci, e la decomposizione continua finché non sembrano altro che rintocchi di campane. Quindi il pezzo praticamente riparte con una sequenza di suoni informi che lentamente prendono la forma di una massa organica di distorsioni. Nellí ultimo dei 15 minuti sentiamo finalmente gli strumenti suonare musica convenzionale, come se lí intero pezzo fosse un puzzle ed ora i Black Dice ci avessero dato la soluzione.

Cloud Pleaser è una miniatura di anemico schitarrio, rumori trovati per caso e riverberi dub. Treetops intreccia ritmo martellante, minuscole dissonanze, melodie distorte e rumori puerili. Le dissonanze più aspre si presentano in Night Flight, che ha anche il ritmo più potente, dando allí inizio lí impressione di una parodia sullí improvvisazione jazz. Quindi la personalità della macchina aliena prende il sopravvento e termina lí album in un tono futuristico che non è proprio il microscopico tono dei primi pezzi.

La maggior parte dellí album è intento a modellare un nuovo linguaggio, e i 15 minuti di Skeleton diventano il suo lessico provvisorio, un buco nero che collassa le informazioni e le ricicla sotto forma di radiazione pura. I Black Dice hanno fatto proprie le tecniche dellí avanguardia ed hanno creato un nuovo tipo di collage di umori post-industriali.

Broken Ear Record (DFA, 2005), il primo album senza Hisham Bharoocha, è stato un esercizio meno disarticolato, sebbene coprisse tutta la gamma: dallí eccentrico allí ricercato al gratuito. Lí approccio più organico è già evidente nella lunghezza dei pezzi (quattro su sette sono brani piuttosto lunghi). Gli 8 minuti del pezzo di introduzione Snarly Yo è un esperimento ritmico che manipola il timbro degli strumenti per produrre poliritmi pseudo danzabili. Smiling Off, di 8 minuti, inizia di là, dal ritmo artificiale, per poi elaborare una sintesi surreale del primitivo e del futuristico, giustapponendo un balletto dadaistico di rumore elettronico a cantici distorti e tamburi tribali. Coesistono e si permeano una qualità comica e una di stampo trance. Il tripudio di rumore dei 7 minuti di Street Dude riesce addirittura, dal caos chitarristico e dalle voci bistrattate, a creare una chitarra stile inno rock, avvicinandosi alla demente intensità dei Red Crayola. Il senso di ironia aumenta quando ormai si è arrivati allí ultimo pezzo Motorcycle, 7 minuti di danza imponente che evoca la psicotica "modern dance" dei Pere Ubu.

Questi brani sono inquadrati in un tono più isterico di quanto non lo fossero gli album precedenti. La musica rimbalza come se i Black Dice volessero provare quanto oltre possa spingersi la loro formula se applicata a formati più strutturati.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia DíOnofrio)

Load Blown (Paw Tracks, 2007) raccoglie tre EP e talvolta si eleva a livello dei tre album pió compatti. Nei momenti migliori mostra quanto la loro sintesi di melodia, rumore e beats (Manoman) sia di gran classe.

Eric Copeland debuted solo with the sample-based Hermaphrodite (Paw Tracks, 2007), whose twelve "songs" are free-form collages of guitars, field recordings, electronic sounds and manipulated vocals; but the results are surprisingly friendly and even danceable. For example, Hermaphrodite morphs into an amusing merry-go-round, La Booly Boo is an exotic children's ballet and the album abounds with demented singsongs like Spacehead. Copeland has a preference for chopped-up and looped vocals (the African chant of Wash Up, the opera soprano of Dinca) and for post-modernist Brian Eno-esque inventions such as the cartoonish techno of FKD. The music is a little harsher at times, like in the atonal music-box of Scum Pipe and in the pounding alien polka of Scraps, but mostly sticks to a friendly structure. After the EP Heavy Afternoon Buzz/ Late At Night A Day Lay (Catsup Plate, 2008), two mediocre EPs of sample-based music were compiled on Alien In A Garbage Dump (2009). They might reflect Copeland's inner stream of consciousness, but the two untitled collages, or, better, egocentric mash-ups, of Strange Days (Post Present Medium, 2010) hardly ever capture the imagination or the heart. On the other hand, Waco Taco Combo (Escho, 2011) rediscovered the power of the beat, notably in the syncopated Land Of Foot and in the comic industrial vignette Wao Taor Condos. The 17-minute Spangled returns to his beloved long-collage format with very short attention span. The opening is basically a digital distorted charleston, and many of the brief sections pasted together sound like tributes to very old musical genres. This album marked the transition to a very lightweight form of art, confirmed by the six-song mini-album Limbo (Underwater Peoples, 2012): much reduced ambition and much increased disco beats, trying to ride the vogue of the mash-up. Double Reverse Psychology is just such a disco-friendly mash-up, with clownish overtones for the generation that did not hear Frank Zappa and the Residents. Tarzan And The Dizzy Devils is just one of the many general-purpose electronic dance jams. Trying to be both eclectic and entertaining, Copeland ended up being neither on Joke In The Hole (DFA, 2013), a mono-dimensional collection of disposable melodic scherzos that recycle rhythms and timbres from other eras, notably the Brazilian-esque Grapes, the 1960s-tinged Cheap Treat and Rokzi; but certainly impeccable productions.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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Black Dice's disappointing Repo (Paw Tracks, 2009) sounds chaotic for the sake of sounding fashionable. The collage rarely achieves more than a passing sense of intellectual entertainment for music historians. It is at the same time a humbler album (perhaps the intention was to produce an accessible album) and a more unfocused album (the result of not being able to produce a more accessible album and hence being stranded in a no-man's land). Its successor Mr Impossible (Ribbon Music, 2012) is rescued from oblivion not by the silly aggro-techno single Pigs but by the eight-minute noisy psychedelic alien industrial polyrhythmic jam Carnitas.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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