Much of Beaches and Canyons, the 2002 double album by Brooklyn’s Black Dice, was really good post-Krautrock outer-space music. The propulsive drum parts space-trucked almost on the level of Klaus Schulze’s drumming on the first Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel albums. The other appealing thing about Beaches and Canyons, though, was that Black Dice were not doing Kraut–space-rock as boring, one-trick-pony revivalism. Call them a two-trick pony if you will, but they were at least modernizing the ancient Teutonic long-track formula by substituting revivalist post-punk and industrial noise for heavy guitars and organs. This combination of styles actually felt new and fun.
In a way, Black Dice seem somewhat advanced in that they’re not buying into the played-out gothic ruse of industrial music. Their sounds are more childlike and playful. Unlike, say, Nobukazu Takemura, though, they don’t go all the way and make music in which the overall aesthetic is one of “children’s art.” And on their directionless new Creature Comforts, Black Dice seem confused, in fact, about what precisely their aesthetic is. Bereft of their old drummer, Black Dice exist now as merely a few guys making an abstract racket with electronic gadgets. One track called “Night Flight” has a guitar-and-drum-machine pulse that suggests motion or travel, but the pulse cuts off after three minutes. So what are its remaining three and a half minutes supposed to depict?
Other tracks (in the tradition of Beaches and Canyons itself) have naturalist titles. The electronic noises in “Treetops” perhaps suggest a jungle setting with exotic birds, and its highlife-style electric-guitar part might be an “Africa” signifier. But the sounds in “Cloud Pleaser” and “Island” don’t seem to represent much of anything. (I guess “Cloud Pleaser” is just supposed to “work” as a title because it’s a cute pun.)
The “creature” apparently represented by the noises in “Creature” is perhaps some sci-fi beast (it reminds me of the “nu-nu” from Teletubbies), but this beast does nothing but stir around for nine-plus minutes, maybe shooting lasers out of its eye sockets. One might guess that the creature is perhaps dancing around a little toward the end, too, when a pulse is established.
The other dancer on Creature Comforts is the skeleton in “Skeleton.” Fifteen-plus plodding minutes, however, is just way too long to listen to an audio representation of some goofy skeleton dancing around!
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