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Go to the Black Dice website  Black Dice - Beaches & Canyons [FatCat Records - 2003]

Black Dice's Beaches And Canyons has been released already some months ago in the U.S. by DFA Records and if I just followed the enormous press response there, this album is bound to receive a high score. But I don't intend to follow Rolling Stone, The Wire, Pitchfork or the New York Times without an in-depth analysis of this disc.

The New York-based band consists of Eric Copeland (vocals & percussion), his brother Bjorn (guitar), Aaron Warren (vocals, electronics) and Hisham Bharoocha (drums & vocals). Black Dice has an immense live reputation because of their 15 minute short shows full of violent noise experimentations, also on the visual side, at which it wasn't unusual that one of the members or even the audience got injured. A whole hour of this, as is the length of Beaches & Canyons, might seem way too much of this, but Black Dice may surprise some of the fans of the older work and live shows. The violence and intensity are now packed in modest, not less than 10 minute long songs of sonic trialling and psychedelic atmospheres.

The opener Seabird is a playful game between electronic bleeps and strange sounds, removing the image of the band's instrumental line-up mentioned above, and in the meantime misleading those who can't stand the artificial tones. The oppressive mood created by the repeated melody – which doesn't seem to be right every time it passes by – turns into a depressive sensation when Things Will Never Be The Same starts. Slowly and subtle the track builds alongside ambiental guitar drones towards an endless open space, where the effective and increasingly intense percussion almost disappears completely in the range of hallucinating consequences.

The Dream Is Going Down clearly shows the noise-influence of the band's past, with harsh outburst in the first minutes, followed by powerful drums. The vocals and / or singing leaves a lot to the listeners' imagination, if not all, but still is a major part in the forever changing sound collage and guitar feedback, tape loops and other electronic instrumentations. There is surprisingly put a lot of effort in the factors melody and harmony tough, which makes Black Dice unique. The cry for experimentation and new sounds is essential for its music, but the listener will hear something recognizable on Beaches And Canyons. It's just too vague to explain in words, or even images & tones.

Isn't Endless Happiness all what we need? Bells and flutes hint at a predictable song structure, but appearances and deceptive. The guitars and percussion take over the Boards Of Canada-esque melodies, but without rushing. Six minutes before the end the Beaches-part of the album appears; the sound of waves and the sea calms the mind before the last track Big Drop enters the scene, which is good and deep enough for the Canyons-part. The almost 17 minutes long phenomenon is definitely the noisiest track on the album, with obvious grindcore influences due to the screaming and the drums, but stretched out into one enormous cacophony of tones, screams and a constant factor in the shape of a guitar drone.

It is almost a relief to realize that this album is finished, since Black Dice's exploration into new worlds of sound textures is gruelling for the listener. But the same listener will also realize that we've just heard one of the most talented bands that emerged the last years, and certainly one of the most effective in experimenting with guitar rock. While other bands fail to put their pretentious music in a coherent package, Black Dice gently fits the sounds and tunes together, while maintaining an organic feeling. As an almost unreal reality, Beaches & Canyons is an impressive tour de force that will blow your mind. Yes, other more influential press reports said it already. But I say it again: Black Dice is f**king brilliant.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Justin Faase
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