Friday, December 14, 2007

THE BLACK DOG, The Book of Dogma
emusic, 2007

by Simon Reynolds

A legend in techno circles, The Black Dog’s music is like the missing link between Coil’s eldritch electronica and Carl Craig’s exquisitely-textured elegance. Although the British group--originally the trio of Ken Downie, Ed Handley, and Andy Turner--became widely heard as part of Warp Records’ “electronic listening music” initiative of the early 90s, the bedrock of their cult is their hard-to-find first three EPs, Did I say hard? Damn near impossible actually, when it comes to The Virtual EP, Age of Slack EP, and The Black Dog EP, vinyl-only 1989-90 releases long out-of-print and each worth a small fortune. Now at long overdue last they are available in their entirety as the first disc of this double-CD retrospective. Tracks like “Virtual,” “The Weight” and “Tactile” distil the essence of Detroit techno into an etherealized machine-funk so translucent and refined it feels like you should store it in crystal vials rather than a lowly CD case or hard drive. "Age of Slack” and “Ambience with Teeth” use hip hop breakbeats in ways that parallel early jungle, but there’s a balletic poise and delicacy to the way Black Dog deploy their crisp and rattling drum loops. This is rave sublimated into a mind-dance, the shimmying-and-sashaying thought-shapes of some advanced alien species who get together and party via telepathy. This set’s second disc, consisting of tracks from three EPS recorded for the GPR label in the early 90s, is also excellent, looking ahead to the Warp-era albums Bytes and Spanners. But it’s disc one that captures The Black Dog at their magickal and mysterious best.

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