Black Dice

Black Dice

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AllMusic Review by

It's easy to see why many listeners would be confused and bothered, at first listen by Black Dice's first release on Troubleman Unlimited. The majority of the tracks on this album are very short and run together into what may seem like the sounds of a hardcore band warming up or having trouble getting a song started. In actuality, this is the sound of a band finding its footing, but not in terms of trying to get something right; in fact, they are getting something right. On their earlier 7" releases, Black Dice blended Gravity-style hardcore (not hard to imagine, since their first release was on Gravity) with an over-the-top extremity reminiscent of former D.C. terrorists Void. These tracks are brutal and hit hard like bricks pelting the skull, but they sound somewhat derivative at times and don't move much past a lot of pre-established notions. Here, Black Dice are discovering themselves and setting out on their own unique direction, one informed not only by violent hardcore of the past but also by the stylings and sentiments of some of the other bands that have crept out of the Providence, RI scene, like Lightning Bolt, Mindflayer, Arab on Radar, and Mr. Brinkman, as well as Japanese noise artists, no wave, and other varied forms of abstract music. It's almost as if they're deconstructing hardcore; if not philosophically, at the very least, they're blasting it to pieces on a sonic level. Most of the album moves in fits and starts, punctuated by extremely brief moments of clarity before everything falls apart again. Squawking, overdriven vocals, broken jackhammer beats, guitars alternating between piercing and thudding, peppered with agro-noise effects that would make Throbbing Gristle proud. One can almost imagine the band literally at war with itself, or preparing for war with itself for sure. The last three pieces evoke more of the earlier Black Dice motifs of crushingly powerful hardcore, although one, which, clocking in at nearly four-and-a-half minutes, is easily the longest track on the album, degenerates into a numbing, tweaked-out drone reminiscent of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Although not as striking as the rest of the pieces on the album, these last three pieces are no less brutal or punishing than the rest of the album. It's all part of a whole, so to speak, evidence of growth from a band that seems to be groping for something beyond its own collective history or knowledge and here establishes itself as one of the forerunners a new breed of noise rockers aiming for art and not perfection or acceptance. This is ugly, difficult music that dares you to come up with some idiom or category to describe it, the sound of American noise -- analog, organic, alive.

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