You Got Ta Roll Me
As Run-D.M.C. would say, let the blippers blip, and the glitchers glitch! Black Dice brought their brand of Brooklyn disaster-ambient to the Lyceum for Tuesday night’s record-release gala, celebrating their excellent new album, Beaches & Canyons. Despite all the solemnity and abstraction of the music, Black Dice are always fun to watch. Eric Copeland, the Dennis the Menace dude with the black baseball cap, and Aaron Warren, the suave loverboy with the flippy hair, lean over their synths and samplers, moan wordless vocals into their mics, and manipulate it all into vaguely Frippertronic prog-clash noise. Eric’s brother Bjorn, the catatonic longhair who looks like he got lost somewhere between sides four and five of Yessongs in 1981, sits on the floor and fumbles with his guitar, while drummer Hisham Bharoocha provides the melodramatic rolls and cymbal crashes. If your attention wanders, which under the sonic circumstances is understandable though by no means inevitable, frowny hipster pretties of all sexes mew about for your delectation.
The show began with LCD Soundsystems, which meant DFA’s James Murphy playing trumpet and flute solos over old soul records; DJ Flex Unger, who began with Taana Gardner’s greatest hit and ended with Hawkwind’s; and old-time Village folkie Vince Martin, whose acoustic Fred Neill and Bukka White songs got a warm reception in a touching moment of cross-generational boho bonding.
As for the headliners, they played my least favorite Black Dice song, the one that sounds like “Shortenin’ Bread,” but they also did my favorite, the one that sounds like “Stereo Sanctity.” Big ugly explosions gave way to tender instrumental bits that evoked claymation fawns taking their first steps during heartwarming interludes in Christmas specials. Bjorn plucked out surprisingly delicate psychedelic guitar licks even as the walls vibrated like tuning forks. What’s amazing about Black Dice is that even when they hit these monstrous levels of volume, they sound lyrical, articulate, fluid, even emotionally expressive, which is the whole idea. They only played for a half hour or so, but it was enough, as the mock-Teutonic grandeur of the music built into a truly epic crescendo. By the end of the night, even a diehard hipster-phobe had to put hand over heart and declare, Ich bin ein Berliniamsburgher. —Rob Sheffield
Gettin Hot in Here
Steve Bays’s high-energy performance style threatened to get the best of him Monday night at Luxx. The Hot Hot Heat frontman had been jumping around all night, spastically swallowing and then spitting his words back out again over jagged guitars, vigorous chunking keys, and pulsing syncopated disco beats. “I think I’m gonna vomit,” the curly-mopped mod quietly admitted to bassist Dustin Hawthorn in between songs near the end of the Canadian foursome’s electrifying set, their first ever in Brooklyn and second ever in New York (they played the Village Underground the night before). As the dynamic singer-keyboard player stood hunched over, back to the crowd, catching his breath, sweat poured from his forehead and his body heaved from overexertion.
And then, as if jump-started by the staccato crack of drummer Paul Hawley’s snare and the sharp edges of Dante DeCaro’s XTC- and Wire-influenced riffing, Bays sprang to life to sing the luxurious set-closer, “This Town,” from the group’s recently released, new-wavey Make Up the Breakdown (Sub Pop). “What about one more night in town?” Bays asked repeatedly at the end of the Dexy’s Midnight Runners-esque tune, holding his finger up in the air to indicate “one night” and then pointing it down toward the approving audience as if the song was really about an extended stay in Brooklyn. The eager 18-and-ups, some of them pogoing, many of them sporting the ’80s fashions of (gasp!) their parents, were familiar with much of the material, having first heard it on the band’s excellent and entirely too short April EP Knock Knock Knock (Sub Pop). A group of Warner Bros. execs, who’d signed the band to their label less than 24 hours before, stood near the back of the club. They looked on approvingly, no doubt pleased with their recent acquisition. —Alison M. Rosen