Black Dice – S/T

This is not a hardcore record. Other than that helpful tip from the man who runs the enigmatic Catsup Plate Records, I know absolutely nothing about the frightening Black Dice project. Taking his words to heart, I approached this album expecting to hear something that resembles hardcore. Instead, I hear something that resembles nothing I’ve ever heard before – at least not recorded purposefully.
I can see why many other people would lump this band into the hardcore genre. It’s often quite noisy, and on the misleadingly titled “Smile Friends,” the singer practically shoves the mic into his mouth as he bellows incomprehensibly, a wordless, deep howl that becomes another instrument of many used by this experimental, noise band. No, this isn’t hardcore. I’ve played my hardcore records much louder than I played Black Dice, and while they never garnered a complaint from my neighbors, this one did (as well as some frightened looks).
But they just don’t understand, surely. There is more to Black Dice than the surface level appearance of discordant, chaotic noise, right? Well, yes, surely. The first of four songs on this record starts off what sounds like, perhaps, a broken music box playing herky-jerky over a sonic growl. It’s almost drone-like, and I can appreciate this approach. Even the pops of the vinyl sound purposeful. Then things get odd. Blasts of crazy drums and bawled out hollers mix with wails of noise, and if I had to call the band hardcore, this is the closest to that genre that they get. I think the pause indicates the aforementioned “Smile Friends” begins, and this noisy assault is the loudest and most aggressive on the album.
I have no idea how long “The Raven” goes on side B, but it starts much as the album starts, with an almost drone-like sonic note, not quite piercing but oddly discordant. As it evolves – and that’s the best word for the progression here – with other sounds, I hear some taped vocals barely audible beneath the mix, and I’m intrigued by this development. The track moves slowly, as if through sludge, piling on layers of harsh sounds before flowing into “Birthstone,” which closes this release. Almost violent sounds of drums and wailing guitars, feedback-drenched sonic distortions caused presumably by instruments but quite possibly by machines placed too closely together and recorded for their discordant squeals and clashes. This could be the soundtrack to invasive surgery.
The longer I listened to Black Dice, the more disturbingly ill I began to feel. Surprisingly enough, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Very few albums can evoke any sort of physical feeling anymore. And while I’m quite sure Black Dice did not intend for me to feel ill, the disturbing, cacophonic nature of their experimental sounds did evoke some dark and rather frightening images, and the loud, noisy nature of these tracks reacted with me in a way that very few albums have. This is definitely not a hardcore record, but fans of noisy, experimental “music” will quite likely react – in one way or another – to this very interesting release. I’m glad when this is over, and yet part of me wants to listen to it again and again – not in a sado-masochistic sense, but to pick up more of the subtleties this band layers into their tracks of noise.
Catsup Plate sent me two copies of this 12″ vinyl album, and since I do not know anyone who would give this album the open-minded chance it deserves, I’ll be happy to send my second copy to the first person who asks. I may ask you to pay shipping, but that’s a small price to pay for something this … interesting.