Benjamin John Power, the UK-based producer behind the noisily dreamy and often elegant sound of Blanck Mass, is best known as half of intense sonic architects Fuck Buttons. On their breathtaking first two albums, 2008’s Street Horrrsing and 2009’s Tarot Sport, the duo built up and set ablaze a series of jaw-dropping electronic compositions, alternately distorted and beautiful, progressive and destructive, transcendent and chaotic. That their epic tracks could on any level be considered ‘ambient’ is part of the mystery behind their massive sound, a progressive kind of beast that marries Krautrock to Eno, with just a touch of shoegazer and industrial to fray the edges.
Understanding Fuck Buttons’ awe-inspiring sound is a good prerequisite to diving into Blanck Mass’ debut album. In a sense, what Power does with this solo project isn’t all that far removed from that band’s M.O. By and large, his creations follow a similar kind of structure, emerging from tiny ambient seedlings and blossoming into massive, encompassing works that sound at once magical and overwhelming. These are beautiful, powerful pieces of music awash in fuzz and imagination, and even at their most drawn out (see: 13-minute penultimate track “What You Know”), never lose that blissful, dreamlike aesthetic.
Power recorded the entirety of Blanck Mass’ self-titled debut in his London apartment, but the expansive nature of it belies such humble origins. The album sounds not so much like the work of one man in his flat, but rather like the soundtrack to the formation of planets, the score to triumph and tragedy, and the bright, final beams of a distant, dying star. A sprawling, effects-laden piece like “Sundowner” is inspiring and life affirming in its largesse, while the morose and minor-key drones of “Chernobyl” evoke a kind of slow and anguished defeat. Static-laden laser-beam synths lay down a harsh and gurgling bed beneath highlight “Land Disasters,” and the comparatively brief “Icke’s Struggle” is less of a volcanic eruption than a late-night look at the stars, boundless and beautiful, but tempered and subtle.
Though Power previously help set a mighty impressive precedent for gigantic, even highly accessible electronic soundscapes with Fuck Buttons, his work in Blanck Mass doesn’t stray far from that template. If anything, there’s more subtlety here, as if phantoms are haunting his work rather than giant, furry beasts. That said, Blanck Mass represents another interesting step in Power’s artistic progression, offering a more darkly reflective side of his work without curtailing any of its ambition.
Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing
Black Dice – Beaches and Canyons
Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline
Stream: Blanck Mass – “Land Disasters”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.