. issue XII : iii .

by barathron

. artist : black dice .
. album : creature comforts .
. year : 2004 .
. label : dfa .
. grade : a minus .


Brooklyn-based noise detectives Black Dice record their Burroughs-like sound deployments as crooked cops who investigate malfunctioning robot arm factories for traces of dangerous radiation while excitedly flipping on and off various switches on every machine they see. Busy, absurdist soundscapes ebb and flow with watery guitar washes interrupted by clicking parasites crawling up your spine. Their unnerving world is the vague feeling of being trapped in a black hole while slowly forgetting all your warmest memories.

Black Dice’s three members show great restraint, only infrequently playing at the same time, if at all. Often a multitude of broken beats and samples do all the heavy lifting, and this is incredibly impressive, given their roots as a thrash-based band. The extremely sparse singing is an eerie backdrop to a symphony of overloading microchips and data streams talking trash at each other. The consistently mid-tempo percussion weaves in and out of the mix effortlessly throughout and never misses a beat.

Opener “Cloud Pleaser” presents an inviting locale that begins with a lightweight, repeating guitar figure as an offering. This gentleness doesn’t last long, as a disembodied deep crunch of jaws begins trying to eat a lone, brave synth bass note. Delay-pedal jungle beats eventually underscore “Creature,” whose built-up sections include some rhythmic tech-chirping and fade-outs to off-balance washing machines. Starting in the middle of the factory floor, “Treetops” brings out an old Nintendo overseeing a skipping printing press, frantically whipping it until it spews forth a series of error notifications and tears in existence. This, of course, is over flanged guitar and thick-veined pulsating sounds like trucks backing up.

“Skeleton” starts with queasy, sickly arpeggiated chords manipulated with a chorus pedal until deciding it should try to make you swoon. At this point, the guitars turn, lifting and otherworldly. Then this A-B setup repeats itself and throws in a lunar, almost post-rock ending as a reward for indulging something that is both slow-moving and fifteen minutes long. What might be a pitched-down synthesizer provides the basis for the closest thing to an actual song on the album: the noticeably major key “Schwip Schwap.” This quick entry resembles one of Battles’ more stationary Gloss Drop numbers, with a celebratory march towards the completely freeform second half that ends with a tongue-in-cheek sitar.

Creature Comforts contains almost no melodies, save for the memorable guitar triangulations, circularly repeating arpeggios or never-ending math equations with a constant, seasick delay. This is incredibly effective for providing floating, peaceful epicenters within madness. The head of “Night Flight” proves that around the 33-second mark … then dissolves into monolithic schizophrenia right after what could be considered a ‘perfect ending.’ At this point, “Flight” goes on an inlooking tangent that ends with the band burrowing underground until they reach the earth’s core, slowly growing tired of their own Kafka-esque onslaught of chaos, and falling asleep.

With Creature Comforts, Black Dice created a new genre: glitch jam noise. The album takes many chances in the stockpiling of scratchy, wounded layers — which, more often than not, pay off. Slow-burn, tumbling drums mingle with earthquakes and MicroKorg-demons, then dissolve into mutating instrument declarations.

Black Dice’s Creature Comforts is some weird loner’s sketchpad from high school where each delirious idea was open-ended, border-pushing, and full of intricate detail.

by Ryan Myers