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Black Dice 

Cold Hands (Troubleman Unlimited)

Wednesday, Jun 13 2001
Early in its career, Black Dice cultivated a reputation for danger and confrontation that ballooned out of proportion. Begun by students at the Rhode Island School of Design, Black Dice originally attempted a parody of punk antagonism. Singer Eric Copeland hurled bottles, mikes, and himself at unsuspecting audience members, while the band efficiently grafted the Germs' sloppy angst onto chaotic hardcore skree. Unfortunately, the group's performance antics soon overshadowed its music. On its last U.S. tour the band found its reputation biting back, as thugs picked fights with the musicians and patrons slashed the group's tires. With the realization that they might be reaping what they'd sown, the band members decided to dispense with audience baiting and concentrate on audio confrontation.

The quartet's second EP, Cold Hands, opens with the titular track, a minimalist bubbling of bell tones and music box crankings. The tune's fragile gentility merely sets the stage for the unsettling feedback squall to come. On the remaining three songs, drummer Hisham Bahroocha seeks out grooves and punishes them for hiding from him. Eric's brother Bjorn Copeland plays guitar like a feedback theremin -- "Look ma, no hands!" -- while Aaron Warren's bass tones battle for space like ants colonizing ears. Black Dice forgoes the orgasmic payoff in favor of detailing infinitesimal variations, achieving a clarity that belies its debt to psychedelic rock.

Whereas the Black Dice of old could be written off for not taking its music seriously, now there is real musicianship at work. Dropping the formalities of hardcore, the group strives for a voluminous drone mapped by musical mad scientists such as the Silver Apples, Faust, and Boredoms. While this more experimental terrain could be dismissed by the avant-garde and punk camps -- the former viewing the Dice as dilettantes, the latter writing off anything outside its slim scope of vision -- the band's sincerity burns hot and sharp.

On Cold Hands, Black Dice offers a model for the class clown to get serious and do real damage. The danger lies in taking its project too earnestly -- after all, unchecked sincerity made psychedelia boring and hardcore irrelevant. If Black Dice keeps its volume knobs up and its frowns down, the band may eventually puncture the wall between art and punk.

About The Author

George Chen


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