Beaches and Canyons (DFA)

Black Dice 

Beaches and Canyons (DFA)

No matter how you roll Black Dice, two distinct sides likely will emerge to debate the band's merit: those who claim the band pushes the limits of all things aural and those who find its anti-melodies abrasive and unimaginative. The press release accompanying the experimental noise outfit's Beaches and Canyons pleads, "Don't let this music confound you. We promise ... Black Dice only sounds elusive" -- as if sound were merely a secondary consideration when assessing a band's talent. Black Dice proponents argue that the music might make for uneasy listening, but real art-rock aficionados will truly get it.

Born in the creative environs of the Rhode Island School of Design and nurtured in the hipster scenes of Brooklyn, Black Dice began generating buzz with live shows where no song was ever performed the same way twice. But after listening to the band's first full-length, one begins to expect that Black Dice's ever-morphing sonic explorations aren't the result of an excess of talent. Just the opposite.

The Grateful Dead and John Coltrane gained acclaim for their improvisational outings, but those artists built unorthodox musical variations from traditional song structures. The music had moments of inaccessibility, but the difficult stretches paid off. With plenty of instinct and instrumentation to back up their ad-libs, the results could be captivating.

Black Dice, on the other hand, seems content to play around with shrieks, feedback and found sounds, hoping that the result will be dubbed cutting-edge. Instead of pushing boundaries, the band merely pushes together disparate musical parts for a product that's uninteresting and often annoying, and the album's long bouts with cacophony build to little reward.

Opening track "Seabird" offers two minutes of repetitive electronic swirls followed by two minutes of numbingly repetitive blips and beeps. If that sounds like the makings of an interminably dull song, that's because it is. "Things'll Never Be the Same" ventures into more pleasing territory, but any of that genre's artists could produce music twice as enchanting.

The band's talent is most suspect on "Endless Happiness," which begins with Tibetan-style sound effects. The final third of the fifteen-minute song consists entirely of gently crashing waves. It's peaceful but hardly groundbreaking -- countless Nature Company collections beat Black Dice to that punch.

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