The term “experimental” often gets thrown around as a filler word for music that’s difficult to describe. Rarely does an artist grasp a sonic idea and directly treat it as an experiment, as opposed to applying past formulas developed by pioneering musicians years ago. It’s apparent that Black Dice member Eric Copeland takes experimentation to heart and beyond, literally utilizing the studio as a laboratory for weird and wonderful sounds. Listening to his latest album Limbo, the bizarre in-between suggested by the album’s title marks a definitive point in Copeland’s career where he finds a masterful balance in a variance of disciplines and frequencies. Although numerically more concise than previous release Hermaphrodite, the six-track LP packs in just as many unsuspecting sonic loops, free-form psychedelia and charming noise.
While heavily utilizing avant-garde song structures similar to that of peers Animal Collective, Copeland’s work gleans an ample dose of nostalgia without ever sounding repetitive or directly influenced. The album’s opener “Double Reverse Psychology” slightly harkens back to Mellow Gold-era Beck, with distorted baritone vocals and otherworldly noises, delightfully melodic, melting the eardrums with a strangely fluidity.
Thumping basslines and a distant vocal monotony in “Louie, Louie, Louie” create a mantra-esque effect. Slowly rising horns and a sleepy ambience in “Fiesta Muerta” indeed could be the soundtrack of those eerie ending hours of a dying party, where the intermediate half-asleep state and the impending daylight causes your mind to imagine strange things. Most impressively, Limbo maintains a coherence amidst ambience and psychedelia, sounds of roars and shakes, syrupy rhythms shifting into downtempo electronica. What cements it all together is a gooey coat of strangeness that’s both sour and sweet.
The sole flaw with Limbo is its probable inaccessibility to a general audience. Frankly put, it’s jarring and not an easy listen. Like Animal Collective, Copeland’s work is musician’s music, geared toward the adventurous listener with a trained ear and a tendency to enjoy music as, well, an expansive, ever-shifting experiment.