July 07, 2005

Black Dice "Broken Ear Record"

Contrary to what you might have heard, Broken Ear Record isn't a pop record and it isn't a dance record--it's a Black Dice record. Though the band experiments more with beats than in the past doesn't change the band's dynamic in any way. Does it work? That depends on your opinion towards Black Dice and your understanding that Black Dice is an inherently challenging band. The shock of the new that came with Beaches & Canyons and Creature Comforts certainly challenged fans of their previous grindcore leanings, and Broken Ear Record sets out to challenge those comfortable with the band's newfound ambient bent.

"Snarly Yow," the lead track on Broken Ear Record, is perhaps the album's definitive track. It starts off with some cut-and-paste static noise manipulations, which are then enhanced by a most definite beat. Gone are the long ambient drones, the peaceful, tranquil moments that came from the band's previous albums; they've been replaced by the moments of previous records' occasional tribal elements and buried beats and vocal manipulations. Such a formula can easily be applied to the not-that-bad "Smiling Off" and the too-brief "Twins." "Street Dude" presents a hard dance rhythm with noise, but it's really awkward and ultimately not impressive. "Heavy Manners" and "Aba" are the only times the record comes close to replicating Black Dice's past, but that's quite okay; they are a nice respite in Broken Ear Record's sea of noise.

Album closer "Motorcycle," though, merits special attention. It is here that Black Dice break the outer shell of their reputation and succeed quite impressively. Though Broken Ear Record is not a dance record (the DFA affiliation came well before the group merged with Astralwerks/EMI), "Motorcycle" shows that such an insinuation might not be too far-fetched. Unlike the questionable success of the previous songs on the album, this track starts with a heavy drum beat, and as the beat plays, vocal manipulations are added, moments of noise are added, a lovely Carribean-style guitar lick comes in, and a screeching yelp is added in the bass drum's down beat. It's an odd song, but in a weird way it's a blend of Reggae, Calypso and noise, and this big mess of sound actually works. Even more impressive, "Motorcycle" is actually, factually grooving.

So Black Dice, they've done it again. They've made an interesting record, they've totally laid waste to everything that's come before, and with Broken Ear Record they've reinvented themselves once again. Alienation? Nah, it's more like making music for themselves and hoping the audience will dig it. And, as always, one's left wondering "what will they think of next?"

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.blackdice.net
Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com

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