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Eric Copeland
Joke In The Hole Tristan Bath , August 14th, 2013 11:51

Black Dice, though often tarred with the too-broadly used noise rock brush, have essentially defied classification since appearing around the turn of the century. Any followers will know that the abstract jams and collage dirges of early triumphs like Beaches & Canyons or Miles Of Smiles are now long gone, with the group's most recent Mr. Impossible confronting listeners with nine tracks of ostensibly danceable acid noise. Think Wolf Eyes collaborating with Jones from Nathan Barley and you're in the right ballpark.

Black Dice member Eric Copeland's solo catalogue has evolved in kind, and with Joke In The Hole, he's made his most competently crafted album yet. The key difference between this Joke and 2012's Limbo or Waco Taco Combo is that, while they indeed embraced the same disjointed aesthetic of wacky analogue anti-electronica, those previous Copeland albums were built in a decidedly more mixtape-like manner, each track a mere arbitrary waypoint in a free-flowing excursion into the sample buggery saluted in this album's title. Joke In The Hole is an ‘album' in the more traditional sense, made of 11 discrete pieces.

This month's Wire damned the album for being a misguided attempt to jagged the smooth edges of modern electronic music and a botched exercise in crafting unquantized beats. Conversely, Copeland's musical persona approaches instrumental electronic music with the sort of outlook shared by earlier, pre-electronica experimentalists such as John Oswald, Nicolas Collins, Yasunao Tone or the more modern stuttering compositions of Giuseppe Ielasi, with ‘composition' seemingly happening by osmosis while the artist explores the possibilities of modern sample-manipulating and beat-making hardware.

Indeed pieces like Nicolas Collins' Devil's Music are the most familiar touchstones for Joke In The Hole, utilising seemingly homemade electronics to haphazardly craft found sounds into music. The cacophony of 'Flushing Meats'' central sample, wavering just about in time while a sea of manic sounds and lurching bass tones hover in and out of the mix, sounds more like a danceable Steve Reich tape experiment than a gutted Burial track. 

 Though less outwardly fun than last year's Limbo, Joke In The Hole is certainly not humourless. The mashup of bouncy synths and dated 90s beats on the aptly highlight, 'Cheap Treat', pokes fun at retro-futurist musicians like James Ferraro, the title highlighting the simplicity in such a track's composition. Elsewhere, syncopation is a running theme, particularly surfacing on tracks like 'Grapes', 'Tinkerbell' and 'Kash Donation'. 'Grapes' is six-and-a-half minutes of mis-cut 90s beats, almost culled straight from a Backstreet Boys track, and somehow mashed together to form a dizzying jam of schizo disco. 

 Though not as easy to swallow as fellow underground noise/electronic/psychedelic craftsmen like Oneohtrix Point Never, or even his own knowingly wacky previous efforts, Joke In The Hole is a step forward for Copeland, as his murky mess of clumsy samples is gradually beign transformed into actual songs. Though constantly teetering on a knife's edge - to be expected in such mental, syncopated mashups - this is wildly colourful and knowingly absurd music. With a little trust from the listener, it works.