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Black Dice - Broken Ear Record

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Artist: Black Dice

Album: Broken Ear Record

Label: DFA

Review date: Aug. 30, 2005

I hate to be a naysayer, but it’s going to be quite a chore for Black Dice to outdo the titanic Beaches and Canyons, a maelstrom whose title is as apt as it is descriptive. It certainly did not happen with Creature Comforts, a meandering, poorly organized effort, and Broken Ear Record also fails more than it succeeds. Where Beaches blended human touch and electricity to create heart-stopping climaxes and an air of constant expectancy, Broken Ear attempts a streamlined repetition of the formula with much more emphasis on the electricity, and the whole does not equal the sum of the parts. When the beloved tribal mixture of effect-driven ululations and ritualistic beats is attempted, the results can be disastrous, as with the insipid "Motorcycle."

Still, Broken Ear has many great moments, and the first two tracks are the best the group has made in some time. “Smiling Off,” in particular, boasts one of those inimitable, infectious Black Dice industrogrooves, in this case mixing beats with what sounds like a futuristic Beach Boys aesthetic – grippingly amusing, to be sure. “Snarly Yo” works along similar lines, but it ends too soon, just as the groove seems to be picking up. “Street Dude” makes interesting use of temporally stretched human samples over another technorocker before erupting into squall, a very effective transition that would have been welcome in a larger context. The same is true of “Aba,” a miniscule fragment that seems entirely out of place here but has enough potential to become an integral part of some larger structure.

In fact, time is largely what the disc is lacking – the time to expand, explore and create in sympathy with what has gone before. Such time expansion, not to mention its polar opposite consummate concision, has made lots of records excellent. Black Dice’s latest disc exists somewhere in the middle, sporting too many great but underdeveloped ideas in just 39 minutes.

By Marc Medwin

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