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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Black Dice: Mr. Impossible


1) Pinball Wizard; 2) Rodriguez; 3) The Jacker; 4) Pigs; 5) Spy Vs. Spy; 6) Outer Body Drifter; 7) Shithouse Drifter; 8) Carnitas; 9) Brunswick Sludge (Meets Front Range Tripper).

At last, a marginal improvement over the last three albums. No, it does not reinstate the early vibe of Creature Comforts (although ʽPigsʼ has pig sounds, and that seems like a benevolent throw­back), but there is one important change: Mr. Impossible focuses less on noise and more on, let's say, «melody» — apparently, the Brooklyn boys have had enough of «abrasiveness» for abrasive­ness' sake and have started thinking about subtlety and about impregnating the listener's mind rather than just flooding his braincells with one shock effect after another until the brain works out an immunity and begins boring you to death.

Like Load Blown, this album also begins with a «song» whose title has been arrogantly pinched from a hit — but just as the original ʽPinball Wizardʼ is a great song where the original ʽKokomoʼ is a catchy pile of horsedung, so is this ʽPinball Wizardʼ a curious and mildly impressive compo­sition where the «alternate ʽKokomoʼ» was just a head-splitting electronic siren run in bubbly mode. Here, we have a deconstructed electronic blues-based bassline, a fuzzy, digitally treated lead guitar wail in the style of Belew-era King Crimson, and a signature change midway through that transforms the song from a threatening «electronic avantgarde jazz» tune into a fast-paced electronic «New Wave rocker». It isn't a triumph of boundless creativity / originality, but it is at least an optimistic introduction that, if anything, states that the band has once again begun to put in some thought about quality control.

The record does get fairly uneven, and some of the tracks are quite comparable in dullness to REPO, but ʽPinball Wizardʼ is not a fluke — for every composition that still begs the question "why do I have to listen to this in the first place?", there is one other with a well-explored nifty idea or two. For instance, ʽThe Jackerʼ has a classy math-rockish guitar part, where the ins­tru­ment, true to the song title, is made to sound like a huge jackhammer or drill, but not in a way where you just push it in and loop the effect to infinity — no, rather imitating a real life process where you have to twirl it and twist it and plunge it and withdraw it based on the circumstances. (Why the people at Pitchfork called the song «jazzy» and stated that it «swings», I'll never know, but then, if a song sounds like a malfunctioning jackhammer to one person and like a swinging jazz tune to another, it is already sort of a good sign). And ʽPigsʼ, like I said, does deliver the promised goods in the form of digital pig grunting — more like ʽAttack Of The Killer Robot Pigsʼ than just ʽPigsʼ if you ask me, and kinda fun if you keep thinking about it like that.

ʽOuter Body Drifterʼ, seemingly inspired by some break dance soundtrack from the 1980s, is not particularly interesting by itself (too noisy without being too funky), but it is made more interes­ting by being immediately followed by its Doppelgänger, ʽShithouse Drifterʼ, whose electronic bleeps and blasts seem only marginally different, but as the title provokes you to start thinking of them in terms of farts, dumps, and... uh, never mind, this wasn't supposed to be taking a scatolo­gical turn, but somehow it's always more amusing to see an electronic artist with a toilet sense of humor than, say, a hardcore punk artist with a toilet sense of humor.

Funny (or not so funny) tidbits like these are not enough to properly conceptualize the record, or save about half of it from being traditionally pedestrian, but still, finally, for the first time in eight years it seems like Black Dice might be back on... well, on a road to something rather than just blindly groping through the desert. At the very least, I am glad that Bjorn Copeland has once more taken up a bit of «creative guitar playing», rather than merely using guitar strings like an alternate way of generating digital signals; in fact, integrating ye olde «Frippertronics» with the modern digital madness of the likes of The Animal Collective might be a viable path to follow, provided they really have no more interest in developing their original «psycho-nature electro­nics» schtick — quite a pitiable decision, if you ask me.

Check "Mr. Impossible" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Mr. Impossible" (MP3) on Amazon

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