Black Dice Repo

[Paw Tracks; 2009]

Rating: 2/5

Styles:  non-music
Others: Eric Copeland, Excepter, Terrestrial Tones

If Black Dice's 2005 full-length was their broken ear record, then Repo, the groups' fifth official studio album, might become known as their broken brain record. There is a pervasive feel throughout Repo that its musicians have suffered significant dendrite damage, their synapses a dull spark of the lightning bolts they once were: this album sounds mentally fried through and through. Its lazy mishmash of urban sounds, fractured break beats, car horns, lackadaisical rhythms, and odd cartoon sounds might offer a glimpse as to why it's called Repo, seemingly Repossessing a panoply of cultural and societal sounds -- from the street, radio, television, indeed much of the annoying aural detritus that I would rather have turned off anyway.

Repo is touted as the group's most thoughtful and composed effort to date, but the final output doesn't reflect this. Compared to Beaches and Canyons, who's super-composed, hyper-stylized electronic soundscapes were a watershed moment in music in general, Repo comes off as lazily strewn together, a flaccid exercise in futility that inevitably begs the question, how much (or little) work was actually put into this? It's the first time you really see this level of (or possibly any) sampling on a Black Dice album, clearly influenced by the solo work of band member Eric Copeland. And though this technique may work better for Copeland (though it often becomes interminable there as well), the Dice as a collective have typically been more adept at tone-catching and sculpting; the inclusion on Repo of hip-hop beats and recontextualized dub songs just seems thrown into the pot without stirring. And while past Dice albums like Creature Comforts and Load Blown undoubtedly spent sizable amounts of time foraying into sonic dead zones, this whole album feels like one such dead zone, where the group is finally relegated to probing puddles of their own sonic drool.

The name Repo might also refer to the fact that they are Repossessing much of their own past work; its lead track "Nite Creme" blips and bleeps before segueing into a regurgitation of 2005's Smiling Off, though to a far less powerful effect. Indeed, there are reminiscent aspects of classic Dice on "Nite Creme" -- diving tone howitzers, infant gurglings, and uninspired croon -- but it comes off sounding a little too phoned in. Still, the track is the album's most cohesive and interesting moment, and it generally goes downhill from there. There just isn't much here to invest in. Prodigious amounts of weed and heroic doses of other various mind-altering substances may make it more interesting, but they'll likely just serve as something to stick in your gaping maw while letting out that monolithic yawn this album will inevitably elicit.

Of course, I am bound to have my detractors; phrases like “you just don't get it” or “that's what they were going for” will undoubtedly be uttered. And if indeed there was clear intent involved in the making of Repo, then kudos should go to BD for achieving such a staggering level of post-industrial catatonia and nausea. There's certainly something to be said for creating something so weird, so unclassifiable, so incomparable to anything else out there. Perhaps, like John Cage says, it is better than it sounds, but I likely won't be listening long enough to find that out. Repo runs out of ideas so quickly it starts to appropriate its own ideas. The album ends with "Gag Shack," featuring looped bits of laughter echoing out into the empty cavity left inside your skull from having its contents scooped out by its preceding 50 minutes. It's a particularly apt approach to ending an album that already comes off as a joke to listeners anyway.

1. Nite Creme
2. Glazin'
3. Earnings Plus Interest
4. Whirligig
5. La Cucaracha
6. Idiots Pasture
7. Lazy TV
8. Buddy
9. Ten Inches
10. Chicken Shit
11. Vegetable
12. Urban Supermist
13. Ultra Vomit Craze
14. Gag Shack

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