Much has been made in music wonk circles of David Keenan’s 2009 article in The Wire, which attempted to define a new genre he called “hypnagogic pop.” Hypnagogia essentially refers to the borderland state when one is on the precipice of sleep. Keenan posited that the half-remembered sounds of the 1980s wormed their way into the subconscious of a generation of musicians, whether through falling asleep with the television on or dozing off to the sound of Mom in the other room, up late listening to light rock and sipping on some Bartles & Jaymes. While a very tenuous idea as a genre that was, I believe, mostly intended to generate debate, I think we can all agree that Keenan hit on at least something of significance.
Strange Days, the latest solo venture by Black Dice’s Eric Copeland, toes the so-called hypnagogic line. His previous two long-players — Alien in a Garbage Dump and Hermaphrodite — were characterized by fragmented and breezy alien funk, the kind of tunes that beings from the fourth dimension might jam to during a birthday party. While they were both relatively accessible and highly enjoyable, Strange Days is a different beast altogether, sounding like your Mountain Dew-fueled cousin furiously flipping the television while you’re trying to take an already uncomfortable post-burrito nap, the aural equivalent of this James Ferraro video.
Black Dice fans who were annoyed by the obtuse Repo will most likely feel the same way about Strange Days. The two long tracks here are chopped, spliced, and looped to the point of novelty, rarely settling for more than 10 or 20 seconds. The sounds are recognizable, made up of bits and pieces that characterize Copeland’s solo work, but that’s what also makes the album so frustrating; it’s as though you tried to burn a “Best of Eric Copeland,” but all you got were small, schizoid snippets of the larger tracks that you know. It’s like the plight of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, as ideas frustratingly slip from your grasp, blasted away before they can be fully formed.
Strange Days is ultimately like some sweaty, agitated dream: best forgotten and discarded for more pleasant vibes.