Taking their name from a British euphemism for imminent doom, the Black Dog (also appearing variously as Black Dog Productions, Balil, Xeper, and Plaid, among others) formed in the early '90s as the trio of Ken Downie, Ed Handley, and Andy Turner. Forging a challenging, relentless combination of early techno, electro, and hip-hop with a penchant for odd time signatures, high-tech atmospherics, and Egyptian iconography, the group immediately distinguished itself from the scores of disposable techno musicians covering familiar ground in the post-rave U.K. Something of a closet phenomenon attracting the devotion of DJs who nonetheless refused to play their complicated brew for fear of being booed off the decks, the Black Dog were immediately placed in the emerging "intelligent techno" category upon the release of their full-length debut, Bytes. A largely U.K.-media constituted phrase meant to peg music involving dance music compositional styles nonetheless intended for home listening, the term has since taken hold and is often applied to groups like Autechre, Aphex Twin, µ-Ziq, and As One.
As Plaid, Ed Handley and Andy Turner had already released a handful of material (including an album) prior to meeting Downie, but their time spent in BDP was their most productive up to that point. In addition to the Dog's inclusion on the perhaps more high-profile Artificial Intelligence compilations on Warp and remixes for the likes of Björk, Blondie, UNKLE, and Ned's Atomic Dustbin, they also released several full-length works as a group before Handley and Turner defected in 1995 to refocus on Plaid full-time. The pair released an EP on the Clear label in mid-1995, and issued their first full-length, Not for Threes, two years later on Warp. Downie continued on with the Black Dog name, releasing the full-length Music for Adverts (And Short Films) in 1996. In 2002, Downie collaborated with Parisian spoken word artist Black Sifichi on the William S. Burroughs tribute Unsavoury Products, and the Downie/Sifichi pairing was given the remix treatment on the following year's Genetically Modified.
Downie resurfaced in 2005 with Martin and Richard Dust, releasing the strong albums Silenced (2005), Radio Scarecrow (2008), Further Vexations (2009), and Music for Real Airports (2010) -- a pointed response to Brian Eno's Music for Airports, designed to "reinforce the false utopia and fake idealism of air travel." Liber Dogma (2011) and Tranklements (2013) followed closely behind. During this period of heavy activity, there was a handful of compilations, including the early-years anthology Book of Dogma, as well as the later short-format collections Thee Singles and Thee Singles II. ~ Sean Cooper