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Black Dice - Mr. Impossible

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Artist: Black Dice

Album: Mr. Impossible

Label: Ribbon

Review date: Apr. 10, 2012

“A line drawn in the sand”: That’s how Black Dice recently described their music in an online interview. They’re certainly far more divisive than most of their peers, far more unwieldy at times, and much more capable of alienating listeners and critics alike. Mr. Impossible has already received a fair amount of blunt-end-of-the-stick from the critical ferment for simply being another Black Dice album. But it’s more than that — Eric Copeland and Co. have stripped the psychedelic flourishes from their music and peeled everything to its core, leaving its hot, bloody guts exposed. It’s probably the toughest they’ve sounded since their early, post-hardcore days, but with that energy transferred to rickety electronics, heavily processed guitar, and sick, mangled vox.

It’s the energy of the thing that gets you initially, whether the careening, run-away drive of “Pinball Wizard”’s “coda,” the insistent, unrelenting thud of “Pigs,” the jackhammer trap that opens “Rodriguez,” or the metallic, lo-fi hoover-riffs of “The Jacker.” You can hear the trio figuring out the music as it happens, improvising their way around an incredibly limited, brutally sharp set of sounds, with everything twisted enough to make the listener uncomfortable and unsure. It all comes together, in a way, in the penultimate “Carnitas,” where they pull out an old rhythm box, pluck out a simple riff on a synth, and then subject it to merry hell: warping, absurdist gusts of air, arpeggios that burst into the sky like geysers, and something that’s as great and improbable as a corny trumpet pre-set on a Casio. The whole thing’s a mess — a great, abject, fingers-in-paint, blood-on-the-canvas, action-painting mess.

I’ve always admired Black Dice’s point-blank refusal to cohere: it makes for records that don’t quite sit together, and music that feels slightly wrong. (In this respect, they’re our generation’s answer to The Red Krayola.) This is meant as a compliment, as there’s not enough music at the moment that leaves it up to the listener to work it out. Mr. Impossible feels both inquisitive and hermetic, half closed off to the outside world, half chasing noise and patterns to their logical conclusion. I can understand why people can’t handle it, though I’d take this form of refusal over the tedious pleasantry of most indie, or indeed techno, I’ve heard over the last few years. That Mr. Impossible is “hard to love” is neither here nor there. Who the hell ever said “love” was the ultimate response to something as unpredictable and untidy as music?

By Jon Dale

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