Another year, another Black Dice album. And once again, my anticipation levels are higher than for any other release by any other artist. Why? Because Black Dice are such a brilliant oddity; you genuinely have no idea what the next record will sound like, but you can guarantee it'll be almost impossible to easily catagorise. If you're familiar with their output to date, then perhaps Broken Ear Record's nearest cousin would be the Cone Toaster single. That track, released initially only on 12" but now available on CD also on DFA Compilation #1, was a pounding punch-drunk electro racket, thrilling in it's perversion of 'dance' music, and so it follows on Broken Ear Record, which is made up of a number of equally fine (if not better) thumping mess-ups. It's difficult to pick standout tracks because everything here is of such an high quality, even by the band's own standards. Though if pushed I'd say the album's opening and closing numbers get me nodding along the most. Certainly this is the band's most direct album to date, and most urgent. Most tracks here are propelled along by some form of relentless rhythm, no matter how lumpen or disorderly. The whole thing runs to just shy of 39 minutes, but this works perfectly for the album. It is easily consumed in one listen, if easily-consumable is a term you'd associate with Black Dice. Saying this is Black Dice's most accessible album so far has it's merits, but they remain an intense listening experience. But as much as I love last year's Creature Comforts for it's quasi-ambient out-of-this-world sound-poems, I think Broken Ear Record trumps it for it's sheer thrill levels. A demented record for listeners who revel in audio abuse.
It is very refreshing that a record as off-beam and strange as this is released on an EMI offshoot. Hopefully people will buy it by accident off the back of LCD Soundsystem connection...some of 'em will hate it but hopefully most of them will be intrigued by it. This is the sort of music a lot of people find unlistenable, but to my ears this is just the sort of thing I want to hear in this era where Babyshambles and Kasabian are considered to be "Indie"/alternative music. Mr Doherty et al wouldn't know an original idea if it whizzed up their nostrils. Black Dice are brimming with ideas...and some of them, as you can hear on this CD, are very very good! Anyway this isn't easy listening but I think its ace. Hard to nail down what it sounds like. Think early Cabaret Voltaire or (Wire offshoot) Dome, with a bigger budget. This veers from noise freakouts to barmy tribal chants and drums (at times like AntMusic!), to loopy electronica, cool guitar riffs, Fennesz style glitch-outs and back again.
Black Dice are still one of the most unique and unusual bands i have ever heard. Maybe thats a bold statement, but I honestly do believe that the boundaries the band has destroyed and violated in the past 2 years since their UK debut are immense. With each release Black Dice have managed to evolve and mutate in an often backwards manner, yet always in an inventive and sometimes even shocking way. Now, along with Sigur Rós, Black Dice have defected from the fantastic FatCat Records, and this will be the band's first release on EMI/DFA. How well this will work out I dont know. Wheather the EMI link will cause some kind of implosion or defect in their genius remains to be seen. Certinly Broken Ear Record is a funny one. With Creature Comforts, the band stuck to almost minimal beats and masses of sounds. Here the trend is reversed, beats make a huge comeback, but not totally in the usual sence, you have to remeber this is Black Dice. The openeing song, Snarley Yow, is a prime example of this. The beats are almost made up of guitar loops and sounds. Yes there is a drum machine, but its subdued. Its very clever and instantly grabs the listener. Which is great. The sheer range of sounds and layers is immense. The opening track alone seems to be able to layer on guitar riffs, bleeps and noisey computer bass and at the same time have places of almost retrospective Creature Comforts style sounds. The forthcomming single, Smiling Off is certinly one of the highlights along the way. Featuring vocal [though not singinging...] and almost trance-like synth warblings, its almost pop music[!] Though the hughlight of the song has to be the drumming along the way. And this is probably the reson why this album ultimatly is a mixed bag. Places on the album really do make your head bob. Smiling off and Motorcycle have some of coolest drumming in for a long time. But somehow the album has lost something in its almost glam pop rock disco weirdness. After a while all the tracks sort of merge into each other, and none truely stand out. Thats not to say any of the songs are bad, just... it feels like a broken record... And you know..its just hit me writing this... Broken Ear Record....The clever lot!!!!