If I was hard-pressed to name a group important in music after the turn of this last century, live or on record, then Black Dice would probably make that list, near the top. Not quite affiliated with any subculture in the DIY/noise/hardcore contingent, they have always been carving their own path, going after what sounds good to their particular ears.
That’s good, because taking a feedtube of straight punk, or avant-garde, or whatever “out” material that’s lying around is a sure way for a group to marginalize themselves these days. The Black Dice instead listen to Carly Rae Jepsen or Cheap Trick or AC/DC or a local Disco station around Brooklyn… And that’s how we see what’s beneath all the tones, feedback and strange electronic romp; skewed and fragmented pop and rock hooks otherwise recognizable across America.
So here on “Mr. Impossible,” the last offering we have by the Dice who are now a trio, we have probably their tightest and most accessible album to date. It can still have people running from a room, but the hooks made by their strange machines are all live, and sometimes they can swing, even appearing conventional at times. And there be lots of hooks! Opener “Pinball Wizard” could rival the Peter Gunn theme if 30 seconds of it were inserted into some new crime series. “The Jacker” is a whirring, back-to-the-start groover that eventually breaks out and escalates wildly. And “Spy vs Spy” harks back to their older material; more cerebral, full of druggy loops.
It’s quick and easy to compare the Black Dice at a glance to the No Wave camp of artists that made NYC home. And the ultimate aftermath of that: groups and individuals working with anything, taking shape and eventually regressing/progressing to either rock-out or groove. Yeah, Black Dice do that, but it’s a new century and there are new forms to mesh. -Wade
21st Century music has led to some pretty interesting permutations. Sounds and rhythms and equipment that was forsaken by underground rock purists (in America) suddenly didn’t register as taboo anymore with a younger generation hungry for new styles to consume.
Like labels Olde English Spelling Bee and DFA, the work put out by the California tastemakers of Not Not Fun and their dance-oriented offshoot 100% Silk mix the spirit of underground autonomy with adventurous production. Not Not Fun’s founder, Amanda Brown, releases albums under the name LA Vampires, and produces one-off projects with many of the her labels stablemates.
On “Freedom 2K” she took a shine to house producer Octo Octa, who makes sleek and shiny tracks in comparison to other label affiliates. Whereas previous LA Vampires output was murky and bubbly, a fringe dance interest, this album can be seen less as an outsider work and more like something you might really hear in a high-end club. Tracks “Wherever Boy” and “Freedom 2K” are lush, golden tracks for clubbing. “His Love” and “Found You” may be just as suitable for a chill-out room or home listening as they are on the floor.
Slender beats and hardcore bass shifts all over, “Freedom 2K” is a great introduction to an underground label that that doesn’t see dance-music making as a curiosity, but as a future. -Wade
When one pushes synthetic sounds to the realm of unreal and back again, what else is left to do? Brian Eno’s work behind an engineering board had taken him far and far out by 1990… The exciting world music he had envisioned did not match the world music found in the New Age marketing-niche of the previous decade, and albums bearing his name seemed to carry his signature thumbprint, even when thoughts of strong structure more or less faded away with each LP.
On “Wrong Way Up” the studio still acts as the lead instrument, but song structures make a return. And who better to help Eno return to strange but impactful songwriting than musical-foil John Cale? All sorts of beats and chirps assembled throughout these tracks are meshed through Cale viola, not to mention any sort of instrument the duo could get their hands on. What they come up with most of the time are musical figments riding chopped and screwed grooves.
Lyrics are not esoteric but definitely familiar to fans of either Eno or Cale; impressionistic views presented in a pop context. The results can be surprisingly affecting like on “Cordoba” when repetitious mentions of buses and stations highlight an obvious separation, or on choice single “Spinning Away” with it’s constant citing of colors and shades.
Eno and Cale are to pop what they were to Rock… That is, artsy. And like Duchamp’s urinal, placed the wrong way up. -Wade
A bold and visionary statement from German guitarist Gottsching who masterfully blends subtle low key electric guitar improvisations with washes of ambient electronica to create a timeless otherwordly soundscape that draws in the listener. As stated this is the track sampled for the Balearic scene hit “Sueno Latino”.However to hear the full piece is a much greater joy.The familiar riff is spread over about 40 minutes while runs of improvisation drift in and out of the mix.The electronic backing is what makes this record so special though as it makes it impossible to gauge what era the music comes from.It simply hasn’t aged one bit. A unique record that will please lovers of many genres. –A