Blanck Mass - Animated Violence Mild

  • Misanthropy-inspired excess that goes a little too far.
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  • Around the time of Dumb Flesh, Benjamin John Power's second album as Blanck Mass, he said the record was "a comment on the flaws of the human form in its current evolutionary state." Its follow up, 2017's World Eater, was described by Power as "a reference to the evolved genetic hangover that we have, this territorial animalistic trait." Are you sensing a theme? "In this post-industrial, post-enlightenment religion of ourselves, we have manifested a serpent of consumerism which now coils back upon us," reads his quote accompanying Animated Violence Mild, this new album. "It seduces us with our own bait as we betray the better instincts of our nature and the future of our own world." In summary, Power's music has been tackling, among other subjects, human evolution and the present wayward course of humanity itself. The intriguing thing, though, is that so far his albums have matched the size of their themes. Tony Naylor put it nicely in his review of Dumb Flesh: "Wagnerian blitzkrieg pop—a flaming meteor, an apocalyptic aftershock, a towering wall of sound." World Eater, while different, was equally gargantuan, even when it was doing icy R&B instrumentals. Ditto Power's self-titled 2011 debut, which mostly didn't need beats to convey a sense of sublime scale. This is, after all, an artist whose music wound up soundtracking the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, an event watched on television by an estimated 900 million people. Animated Violence Mild, if it's possible, goes even bigger. Power has seemingly aimed to write the most gigantic, overwhelming melodies he could muster. Picture a combination of power ballads, trance, hardcore and grindcore, blended to soundtrack a collision between planets. It's tempting to think that his underlying concept has played a larger role in shaping the music than ever before. Basically, if a former noise musician with a synth collection translated rampant, unchecked, all-encompassing consumerism into music, Animated Violence Mild might well be the result. It's an album that bulges under the weight of its own excess. Power captures both the sweet, sickly extremes of modern consumer culture and the underlying anxiety over what it's doing to our planet. His anger is most clearly manifested on tracks like "Death Drop" and "Love Is A Parasite," on which he screams vocal lines atop the skyscrapers that are the drum and synth parts. Smart combinations of ideas define the best of what's here. On "House vs. House" a stuttered, juke-style beat and sample is the ballast for a Knife-style vocal and aspirational melodies. There's a satisfying switch of energy on the beatless "Creature/West Fuqua," when a guitar drone fades to reveal a resplendent harp, while anything with Power's vocals is a novel contrast to the earth-shattering synthesisers. Mostly, though, it's all just too much. For all the theatrics, there's been a cunning level of restraint and complexity to the most recent Blanck Mass records, something that Animated Violence Mild almost completely lacks. In this respect, Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro both come to mind, artists who have both shaped melodic vulgarity to create records of genuine intrigue. Some of the work Power did as one half of Fuck Buttons matched the grandiosity of this record's melodies, but did so with emotional resonance. But with the sense of plastic emptiness so ever-present, Animated Violence Mild too directly mirrors the very thing it's critiquing.
  • Tracklist
      01. Intro 02. Death Drop 03. House vs. House 04. Hush Money 05. Love Is A Parasite 06. Creature/West Fuqua 07. No Dice 08. Wings Of Hate