There’s something of a knee-jerk response in me that thinks there must be an overriding aesthetic reason, a musical call-to-arms, that drives Black Dice to make music that sounds like field recordings from an old-timey, ’50s-era pocket-watch factory. Austere stuff like Load Blown tends to pose this question. But the more I think about it, the more I guess that the members of Black Dice just like it this way. Which is fine, because they’re good at what they do. In the past year I’ve seen my share of hirsute noise-clone wannabes fumbling with some suitcase full of metal boxes and wires that probably cost more than a dozen of their haircuts, and the results are inevitably the kind of shit that Black Dice wouldn’t sling with a ten-foot shit-slinging stick.
But as crafty as Black Dice is, and as difficult as I assume it is to technically patch together some of its songs, I can’t help but feel that its music feels a bit pointless — like a lost accompanying piece to some nonexistent conceptual installation. Load Blown is a compilation of several recently released twelve-inch EPs and some unreleased tracks. Like the band’s previous outings, the record is an exploration in using noise as a musical application — and by noise I mean mostly sounds not typically associated with musical composition, not in-the-red sonics. So turning this on in a room full of old-timers probably won’t elicit a “Turn down that consarned racket!” but you might get a “Did someone leave the coffee filter on?”
And this is mostly good, because the members of Black Dice know that cosmic volume isn’t the only way to express tension, aggression and release. Tracks such as opener “Kokomo” and “Drool” do this nicely with rhythmically interlocked layers of sounds. One of the best parts about Black Dice is that you never really know what you’re hearing — best is when perfunctory instruments are cut off in the middle of their ring, causing a blip haywire in your brain. But outside of “Scavenger,” an insane mix of Hawaiian-sounding slide guitars, carnival noises and a pulse copped from Pink Floyd’s “Money,” it doesn’t ever feel like it adds up to much.
And as much as I love songs like “Fitter Happier” and “Providence” in their original context (yada yada yada), I just usually don’t feel like listening to entire albums of “Fitter Happier” and “Providence”; I wanna hear OK Computer and Daydream Nation. Blips, bleeps, nervous energy and dissonance always seem to me to be means rather than ends. So there’s a good chance that I’ll never listen to Load Blown again. But hey, it’s about as good as anything else Black Dice has done, and I suspect the band’s fans will feel that way, too, although to them that consensus may portend something more.