Latest from NY noiseniks takes things down a notch or two into uneasy ambient territory.
Nick Reynolds 2003-02-10
Previously New Yorkers Black Dice have had a fearsome reputation as purveyors of extreme sonic assault. But the mood here is much more relaxed than the previous album Beaches and Canyons. This is...mellow. Simple guitar figures weave away gently while a variety of machines burp, belch, twitter, shriek and talk to each other.
The sounds they use are very raw, but are given lots of space to breathe. You feel that what you are hearing is natural, organic. The track "Creature" is well named. Its like listening to the heartbeat of some huge, mythical amphibian, while you lounge on the bottom of the sea bed, while "Skeleton" features some gentle shamanic chanting.
Their use of stereo is simple but very effective. Sounds and textures bounce from extreme right to extreme left, setting up a call and response effect. Natural percussion (they use a conventional kit, no drum machines), and pulses are put in the middle. It's the kind of balance you would use for a rock band: bass and drums in the middle, guitars on the left and right. As a familiar sonic picture, it doesn't mess with your head. The distorted bass frequencies and gritty trebly loops do that.
Its only on the two final tracks "Schwip Schwap" and "Night Flight" that things get nasty, where the machines start to fight each other with dirty, explosive bursts of sound. "Night Flight" sounds like angry seagulls circling overhead.
Whatever their mood, Black Dice always sound like themselves and no one else. On balance I just prefer Beaches And Canyons, simply because I like extreme noise. But this is a thoroughly enjoyable and even relaxing listen.