Eric Copeland - "Corn on the Cob" (Alien in a Garbage Dump)
Twelve years into their career, Black Dice are just as confusing as they were when they first emerged as a performance art post-hardcore unit, and Eric Copelandís second solo outing is of a piece with his bandís recent wreckord, the sketchy Repo. For close listeners and distracted ones, too, little of Alien in a Garbage Dump is easy on the ears Ė the screwed-down vocal loops, sludgy beats, and warped samples donít build into a full-on sugar high, preferring to lurch and slip into and out of phase. Annoyance seems to be the point when youíre dealing with this level of trash culture saturation, but itís difficult to discern if the music validates the rote commentary. The bullshit detector went off for some of us with Repo, whose songs too often seemed to be little more than enactments of the contrasts found in the cover art.
To be sure, the music on this album is meticulous, and when Copeland ventures out from the mind-squint clusterfuck aesthetic, as on the bouncy gray interstitial ďScones And Bull,Ē conceptual laziness ceases to be an issue. Other times, itís clear that the music is just cruising by in an aesthetic zone thatís already been staked out. Bummer that the album opens with ďKing Tits Womb,Ē which may as well have fallen off the Repo wagon: time-smeared alien vocals pan torpidly from channel to channel, trunk bass drifts after and hi-hats, flute, and synth samples get fussed into unstable little mounds.
Copelandís own sleeve design here (his brother Bjorn handles those duties for the Dice) hints at AlienĎs threatening, monochromatic vibe, and the album is at its best when he brings the newsprint smears and photo grain to the forefront, like on the warped, wheezing melody of ďAuto Dimmer.Ē ďAl AnonĒ has a similar feel, but the flanger-drenched conclusion is a disappointing cop out, especially when its mushiness is compared with the shifting rhythmic and textural surfaces of what came before.
The poverty here isnít unexpected. The lack of reasons to replay the album highlights that Black Diceís real peers are Excepter, another band whose concept and execution appear flawless, but are frequently a chore to listen to. Black Dice has always been a band that you could hang a lot of meanings on, and itís safe to assume that as long as theyíre making music, theyíll come up with suggestive, compelling combinations of sounds and mind-bending changes of mood. If nothing else, an album like Alien in a Garbage Dump is interesting for its first spin, when the listener has the resources to make something of it. Past that, youíll need to make an almost ritual commitment to teasing out the clashes that push the music forward. Thatís the point, of course, and itís nothing too daunting for your average Dice fan. Itís just that thereís something of a shell game going on here.