In some ways, it’s easy to see Black Dice as Animal Collective’s mischievous, acid trip twin brothers. Both started their careers around the same time (in the late 90s), the Dice at the Rhode Island School of Design, A.C. in Baltimore. Both moved to New York a couple of years later. In 2004, the two bands put out Wastered, a split where they each recorded a song by that name. Animal Collective’s first ever tour (in 2002) was alongside Black Dice. Avey Tare and Black Dice honcho Eric Copeland also work together under the name Terrestrial Tones and put out three excellent records (the two were also roommates for a while in Brooklyn).
Despite their interconnected histories, the two bands have developed in very separate manners. Black Dice’s early sound was heavily inspired by the RISD scene: Lightning Bolt-esque noise, complete with a drummer and some guitars. As time and lineup changed, the group has become a trio of electronic manipulators, standing behind trays of pedals, synths, laptops and occasional guitars. Where Animal Collective fuse worldbeats and unusual sonic textures onto pop sensibilities, Black Dice cling to its experimental noise roots with a fervor, taking similar textures and beats to a unique world.
Repo, the group’s seventh studio album, is their second for Paw Tracks (further cementing the connection to Animal Collective). 2007’s Load Blown jumped even further into psychedelic space, more poly rhythmic and strangely danceable than Black Dice ever had been. Repo continues this trend, but can’t seem to sit still for more than a couple of minutes.
“Inches” incorporates bleats of what sound like television newscasts into the swirling, noisy groove-pot. “Lazy” has a Battles-esque loop of effected vocals under squelches of synth bubbles. The epic, six and a half minute “Ultra Vomit Craze” takes an industrial-sounding crunching drum sample and drops in surreal, alien talkbox vocals.
The last few Black Dice albums have come a long way away from 2002’s excellent Beaches and Canyons, to the chagrin of many. Where Beaches.. was focused more on lo-fi instrumentation, Repo layers on the unidentifiable samples and sounds at full force. Where Beaches built from quiet, churning noise to epic climaxes, Repo is a constant freakout, discarding everything but the unusual and interesting. Instead of being relegated to structure or expectations, Copeland and friends let things happen. The music falls in and out of focus, in and out of a semblance of structure, but consistently challenging the boundaries of music.