After recently hearing Black Dice’s forthcoming Mr. Impossible, I found myself thinking about their oft forgotten early days. Before Williamsburg and DFA, back in the depths of the Providence noise rock scene, this formative version of Black Dice could have been confused for a different band. Eric and Bjorn Copeland, earlier member Hisham Bharoocha, and very early member Sebastian Blanck generated an incredibly unique permutation of noise rock. Moments like on the dense-pulsing “The Raven” off Cold Hands (2001) have a nihilistic bluntness to them, something that was eventually stretched and deconstructed on their masterpiece Beaches and Canyons (#9 on TMT’s favorite of the decade).
Meanwhile, Black Dice #3 (2000) begins with nearly a dozen brief 30-second tracks that melt into one another in a blur of Boredoms-inspired aggression. Eventually, it evolves towards more structured pieces in its last few tracks, the 14th of which reveals itself to especially brutal peak as they show early on their knack for distorting guitars like no one else. Keep in mind, most of this material existed in the late 1990s, before the DFA, Kid A, or the massive Brooklyn music scene had come to fruition.
A decade later, Black Dice are still around, and this rediscovery of their early work has given me an opportunity to look at their career and especially the new record with a fresh perspective. For example, in the last minute of single “Pigs,” after multiple bursts of violent glee, Black Dice break a final time into that propulsive stomp, and you can hear that same energy howling away from nearly 14 years in the past. Recently, in an interview with Stereogum, Bjorn Copeland discussed the sound of his band’s new work: “In a lot of ways this album is stripped down, you can get really hung up on gear and equipment and sometimes you forget that some of the music you love best that satisfies your needs is just made with a guitar and vocal.” This quote certainly rings true in the present, but it also shows how their approach to music-making today has clear continuities with their aesthetic of the past.