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Black Dice

Broken Ear Record
DFA/Astralwerks

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Call its music "stream of subconsciousness." Or don't call it music at all, because it's actually much more than that: A multi-layered and oddly textured experiment in sound that probably owes a larger debt to contemporary and conceptual art than it does to even noise or punk rock.

 

Based in New York City after having formed in 1997 at the Rhode Island School of Design, Black Dice is among the best known of the performance artists-cum-noiseniks mentioned variously in a Spin magazine feature story late last year as "knob-riders," "sound terrorists" and "laptop jammers."

 

So what, exactly, sets Black Dice apart from its contemporaries -- groups with names like Hair Police, Wolf Eyes, Lightening Bolt and Merzbow? Tough to say, except for the fact that on the group's newest release, Broken Ear Record, brain-rattling noise for the sake of noise alone seems to be in relatively short supply. Instead, much of Broken Ear Record seems thoughtfully composed, from the electronic chirps and whistles of the album's opener, "Snarly Yow," to the vaguely familiar guitar riff -- here chopped and sliced into something oddly metallic and cold -- that acts as the steady backbone of "Motorcycle," the disc's closing track.

 

Ornette Coleman once maintained that free jazz was about much more than simply making noise, and the same could be said for the music of Black Dice; it'll take concentration and a good bit of patience, but pay close enough attention and you'll find the tell-tale signs of harmony and melody hidden inside these tracks.

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