- An uneven collection of scrappy experimental beats.
- As a key member of Black Dice, the sole experimental outfit on DFA during the label's mid-'00s peak, Eric Copeland made new connections between the US's scrappy noise underground and dance music. While this fusion became popular in the intervening years—usually with an unfortunate self-seriousness—Copeland has remained unique by embracing silliness and psychedelia. He has amassed an impressive catalog of solo releases, seemingly drawn from stoned solo jam sessions, with different ideas colliding in unexpected and at times humorous ways.
That off-the-cuff approach has typically proven fruitful for Copeland, but on his latest albums, the two-part Trogg Modal, he arrives at an uninspiring middle ground between accessibility and oddity. Trogg Modal is a collection of scattered attempts to produce punchier versions of the bizarro-world loops and beats that have defined his work for much of the last ten years. But it is only when Copeland embraces his inner freak that the music feels purposeful and compelling.
Trogg Modal Vol. 2 contains most of the highlights. "High Score Zed" feels like video game music that is slowly bent out of shape, with a lo-fi synth pattern that twists and squirms over a quick pulse that subtly shifts between 4/4 and 7/4 time signatures. It is slippery and disorienting. "Pay Off" is one of the most melodically satisfying tracks Copeland has produced, and also framed in an odd time signature, this time 5/4. The combination of a simple drum machine pattern and complex, bouncing synth lines that weave in and out of each other is thrilling, at once goofy and confounding. A highlight on Trogg Modal Vol. 1, "Mateo," is centered around two vocal samples that create a rising and falling effect over a propulsive beat with low key but engaging synth jamming rising to the forefront halfway through.
On the other hand, there are tracks like "United Banana," built on a hazy beat interrupted suddenly with a blunt, smothering synth that feels totally incongruous (and not in the playful, dynamic way these elements are typically presented in Copeland's music). These two elements are static for most of the track, which meanders along for almost six minutes. Similarly, "321 Contact" is built on a ponderous bass lead that offers little variety as it plods along. Gone is the playful, inventive spirit that has made so much of Copeland's music feel fresh. Trogg Modal finds small ways to refresh his familiar style, but it merely hints at the alien worlds that he used to build so naturally.
02. 321 Contact
03. Electric Mud
01. Beat It
02. High Score Zed
03. United Banana
04. Pay Off
05. BS Dropout
06. Light Fantastic