BLACK DICE with ET SANS and AWESOME at the Gladstone (1214 Queen West), Monday (September 12). $10-$12. 416-531-4635.
Noise has been getting some serious play recently. American post-punk outfits largely made up of forward-thinking art school grads with a penchant for experimentation and abstraction have been storming the gates of the avant-garde and indie rock worlds. At the vanguard of this surge overground has been New York's Black Dice, a trio (until recently a quartet) who defy expectations with their protean approach to what member Aaron Warren describes as "hardware-based signal processing and looping."
Black Dice already have an impressively broad catalogue behind them, with releases ranging from early hardcore material on Troubleman Unlimited to full-lengths and vinyl 12-inch's on DFA, their current home, where they're a kind of an anomaly - a noise band on a dance label.
"We originally hooked up with the DFA through the Rapture, who are our friends," explains Warren over the phone from New York. "It's been really great. They appreciate what we're doing.
"That said, we don't do much with them in the studio. We tried cutting a few tracks, but we have really different working methods. They work too slowly for one, and their studio itself isn't the best environment for us. It's kind of sterile. The vibe of a studio is really important to us."
Their pursuit of flexibility and vibe found Black Dice in the sunny climes of Byron Beach, Australia, to record their new album, out this week on DFA.
Warren describes the home studio on Byron Beach as "a good place to make rigorous decisions. We'd always toyed with the idea of doing a record in a tropical environment. While we were writing it in New York, we decided, 'Hey, maybe we should actually do this.'
"We were surrounded by beach bums the entire time. The place had a real tropical vibe that I definitely think influenced the record."
The words "tropical vibe" are a good way of describing where Black Dice are at. Listening to 2004's Creature Comforts album is like touring some kind of volcanic nature park where the soundscape includes ocean swells, birdlike electronic tweets and subterranean gurgling.
It's a branching out from the heavy-handed dissonance most would associate with noise music. At its worst, noise can be an artistic ghetto of its own, a morass of resampled distortion and ear-splitting feedback as confining as the conventional song structures it ostensibly combats. Black Dice have so far done an admirable job of evading being pigeonholed in one sound. They're the kind of band you believe could go anywhere.
Black Dice promote their new material on an extensive tour that comes to Toronto's Gladstone Hotel Monday. Unconventional shows are nothing new for the trio, who performed in a greenhouse as part of Peter Coffin's Perfect If On festival.
Asked what Toronto can expect, Warren replies, "We're kind of like the Allman Brothers Band. We've got these methodically written tunes, and then we can jam them out. There'll be crazy different things coming out from show to show, even depending on how the gear is acting."