Brooklyn trio Black Dice’s first risk, 2004’s Creature Comforts, was a dim blend of horror-movie synths, processed gurgles, and disjointed smears of electronic rhythm. It also wasn’t very good, but that’s ultimately immaterial—some bands can’t grow without taking chances. Before that, they’d morphed from a brutal noise band into something more classically sublime: monkish bellowing, gigantic-sounding drums, and an unreasonable amount of reverb. It was music that shot from the hip, sure, but the band was aiming at targets bigger than barn doors, and their “classic,” 2002’s Beaches and Canyons, was so obvious in its mystical signifiers that it almost sounded rote: a shameless appeal to the weak spots of head-nodders worldwide.
Creature Comforts, though, along with 2005’s Broken Ear Record, was close, weird, and warm: like bed-wetting, and about as incoherent. Thankfully, Load Blown makes the trajectory clear. What started with pans across the ocean has zoomed to tight-angle shots of bugs, a microcosmos of gnarled sounds and faded, out-of-sync dance rhythms. They’re still deliberately obtuse, but at least they’ve learned to be playful about it: “Kokomo” screws around with reggae, “Toka Toka” is a samba song, and the synths fart and squelch along, more anthropomorphic than ever.
It’s the kind of detailed withdrawal that makes for excellent headphone music. The forest is for the birds; band member Eric Copeland recently commented that the best place to listen to their records would probably be on “a walk, maybe here in New York.” More half-waking sex than great escape, Load Blown is a psychedelic crumble of small, intimate sounds. They could probably fit their rigs in their backpacks by now. Black Dice left the mountains to erosion—more happens in the underbrush anyhow.
Black Dice play the Highline Ballroom November 23, highlineballroom.com