Miles of Smiles / Trip Dude Delay
by Black Dice on FatCat Records
Black Dice follow the acclaimed ‘Beaches & Canyons’ LP & ‘Cone Toaster’ 12” (on DFA) with a two track EP, ‘Miles Of Smiles’, out on 5th April, supported by a full European tour. Clocking in at just under half an hour, both tracks on the 12” are exclusive to this release, and as with all previous releases sees the band moving forward once more into fresh territories. The sound is still intense (and intended to be heard at extreme volume) but veers ever further away from any US alternative rock scene they may once have fraternised, as they head into their own psychedelic, increasingly electronic-based sound world. Appearing with contemporaries such as Wolf Eyes, Sonic Youth, Lightning Bolt, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, and Animal Collective and playing a variety of DFA events may help give some context, but Black Dice are as difficult to pin down as their name suggests. Gathering no small amount of press support (New York Times made ‘Cone Toaster’ their single of the year; ‘Beaches & Canyons’ made Rolling Stone editors top 5 picks) while remaining provocative and uncompromising, Black Dice follow their own set of rules, consistently challenging the listeners preconceptions.
An environmental, all-encompassing collage of sound, ‘Miles Of Smiles’ was recorded with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Liars, Oneida, David Grubbs, Fischerspooner), constructed from found sounds, studio recordings and improvisations. Originally produced as a musical accompaniment to a Japanese gallery installation, ‘Miles…’ is an epic trip, investigative, chaotic, and fully immersive. On the other side, ‘Trip Dude Delay’ is a typically loose but carefully structured, physical band composition in three parts. A spell of warm, flowing ambience gives way to a storm of white noise, before buckling under its own weight as the track then shifts into a fractured, kaleidescopic, tropical dub. The three sections are inextricably linked: what at first sounds chaotic reveals method with repeated listens, echoes of what has gone before momentarily resurfacing, melodic signifiers lending narrative and direction to the tension and flow. Two sides of the same coin, both tracks centre around cyclical, organic, slabs of obtuse logic, as open to chance as their name would suggest.
Whilst very much a separate entity, this EP bridges a perceptible shift between the sound of ‘Beaches..’ and Black Dice’s new, forthcoming album. Whilst the former drew numerous positive comparisons to the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Throbbing Gristle or early Pink Floyd, the new work is perhaps more readily traceable to the early electronic / concrete / tape work of pioneering composers such as Herbert Eimert, Todd Dockstader, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Their approach is heavily structural and neatly mirrored through the band’s self-designed, fractured, symmetrical artwork.
Experimental as they are, Black Dice’s approach is wide open and genuine, the band as enthusiastic about Neptunes or Beyonce as they are aligned to any underground clique. Almost pop art in approach, gallery spaces and warehouses have served as live venues as often as clubs. Their live set up is highly interactive, with instruments melding into anonymity as the band take feeds from one another, remoulding familiar reference points into something new and dramatic. Having met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, Black Dice originally purveyed a chaotic, abrasive mix of thrash and angular noise, with infamous, often violent live shows seldom lasting more than 15 minutes. The current line-up of Aaron Warren (vocals, electronics), Bjorn Copeland (treated guitar), Eric Copeland (vocals, electronic percussion), and Hisham Bharoocha (Drums, Percussion) was stabilised in summer ’98, and the band relocated to NYC. Since then, the emphasis has shifted from more conventional song structures to open-ended sonic investigations, with the band drawing as much inspiration from modern art / visual concepts as they do music, volume and frequency maintaining the level of physicality.