The popularity of individual-track downloads on iTunes has demonstrated the renewed strength of the “single” with music fans in recent years. The digital market boom provides easy access to that realm of song consumption, but the electro-experimenters in Brooklyn's Black Dice didn't have new distribution technology in mind when they recorded the music on their latest album, Load Blown. Bjorn Copeland, Eric Copeland, and Aaron Warren approached the new tracks first as a series of singles and EPs released on old-fashioned vinyl over the last 18 months. Eric Copeland says the intention of using recent Black Dice material for a full-length was always there, but secondary. “These were songs we wanted to make very slowly, very independently, so they can be listened to on their own,” he says. “And at the end, [we] put it all together.”
Eric Copeland says that the current climate of releasing records is a new world, adding, “Making music for me hasn't changed that much, but putting out an album, you're fucked. You can't make your money back. [The market] is super-swamped, so you're kinda pissing in the ocean. You can play that game, or you can reassess that game.”
Black Dice has always challenged industry standards, most notably with its music. Over the years, the group has constantly changed its sound, evolving from a band that once thrived on confrontational noise and avant-garde arrangements, to one that relies heavily on notions of repetition. The trio's recent material involves disembodied vocal snippets and layers of distorted bass lines amidst faint drum-machine beats. Load Blown relies a lot on sound loops — something for listeners to focus on among more chaotic backgrounds. “Toka Toka” pairs mechanical chirps and warbling beats with layers of fuzzy bass. “Gore” starts off with what sounds like an electronic kazoo before eventually yielding to a metallic tribal rhythm, while the mellow “Drool” captures someone slowly scratching a record amongst faint squeals and cascading wooden blocks.
Sound confusing? You wouldn't be alone in that assumption, but Black Dice thrives on audio cacophony. Its members are well aware that their sound is an acquired taste. “I think it's an older idea to make a body of work [where] coherency is readily available to everyone, like a Stones record,” Copeland says. “I think that's an accomplishment, but it's not something I'm very interested in.”
While the members of Black Dice have always been up for experimentation sonically, they've adopted a more mature approach to the business side of their career, rethinking, for example, the idea of taking unknown bands on tour and paying them more than they're told they should. “I want to do this forever,” Copeland says. “But it's hard figuring that out. People always tell us we make bad business decisions.” And even though Black Dice's model of releasing the Load Blown singles seems conceptually fresh, yet paradoxically archaic in format, Copeland hints that the method was a bit of a reactionary statement in the beginning. “There is something frightening when starting to make a record: I don't know how all this is going to connect, or sound like, and it's going to take forever to make,” he admits. “But in terms of listening to it, it's something I appreciate a lot.”