blanckmass

In 2011, somewhere amidst the blitzkrieg of ‘Tarot Sport’ and the rumbling intensity of ‘Slow Focus’, Benjamin John Power – one half of noisegaze duo Fuck Buttons – began putting out his own music. A solo-project given the equally brilliant pseudonym of Blanck Mass was born, which saw Power move away from the skull-splitting immensity of his best collaborative work.

Power’s self-titled debut was a soporific journey into the gloaming, fuelled by dense loops and heavy-set ambiance. It retained the disquiet of his collective work while fleshing out Fuck Buttons’ dark potency with warmer, more impressionistic tones that skirted the edge of brilliance. Follow-up EP ‘White Math/Polymorph’ arrived a year later in 2012, keeping up a similar rhythm, adding greater structure to Power’s nebulous atmospherics. But despite both being very capable records, neither truly elevated Power’s career beyond the tag of “a side-project from that guy out of Fuck Buttons”. ‘Dumb Flesh’ is here to change that, bringing us something far closer to his work with Andrew Hung – a fact that’ll be resoundingly clear if you’ve heard lead single ‘Dead Format’.

An indication of Power’s new direction, ‘Dead Format’’s foundations are built on crushed electronics and relentless future-tribal percussion; vocal abnormalities intermingling with serpentine drones, while undulating synths rise to a fearsome crescendo. And it’s not alone – closer ‘Detritus’ takes a similar lead, the eight-minute monolith opening with two solid minutes of furious static that crashes with unrelenting force, before the melody slowly rises in a triumphant moment similar in tone to ‘Tarot Sport’’s now infamous – and slightly overused – ‘Olympians’.

Yet this isn’t simply a one-handed Fuck Buttons LP. Rather it’s a unification of the two opposing strands of Power’s career. The result is something unique to Blanck Mass, which takes maximalist sonic savagery and intertwines it with layers of convulsive ambiance.

‘Atrophies’ swirls with stop-start beats and a recursive melodic shimmer, before breaking down into otherworldly funk. ‘Lung’ then simmers with distant wistful ambiance and a ceaseless, mesmeric thump, as Power throws in chopped up organics to momentarily unnerve you before dismissing them in drops of metallic sound. If there is a running theme across the album, it’s one akin to Cronenberg-esque body horror – or maybe just the end of Superman 3 – as organic and inorganic materials intertwine in orgiastic union, like on ‘Cruel Sport’, where Power rinses a vocal sample into an indistinguishable morass of hedonistic dance. Opener ‘Loam’, meanwhile, is entirely built around a backmasked lyric slowed down to torporific proportions; a message you’ll never understand dropping into a digitised haze like molten lead into water.

As part of the Fuck Buttons, Power’s is one half of the most influential and sonically inventive groups of the last decade; their drones, breaks and beats reshaping a genre and challenging everything we’ve come to expect from modern electronica. But now, as Blanck Mass, he’s beginning to reach those same heights alone. ‘Dumb Flesh’ is the borderline masterpiece that finally brings Power’s genuine definition as a solo artist.

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