Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental, Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock
Benjamin John Power’s first official recorded venture away from his fellow Fuck Button Andrew Hung, under the name Blanck Mass, felt instantly familiar, but a particular absence nagged in places. “Raw Deal” was the most glaring example on Blanck Mass’ 2011 self-titled debut: it features a looping lamp-lit build-up that could have come straight off of Street Horrrsing or Tarot Sport, were it not for the croaking frogs and other nighttime-in-the-swamp sounds. (For better or for worse, those come back with a vengeance a few tracks later on “Icke’s Struggle”).
What do you do after soundtracking the Olympics? If you're Benjamin John Power -- whose work as Blanck Mass and with Fuck Buttons was used in the 2012 Summer Olympics' opening ceremony -- you create "a comment on the flaws of the human form in its current evolutionary state. " Dumb Flesh, Power's first work as Blanck Mass for Sacred Bones, lives up to its name in unexpected ways: loaded with undeniable hooks and beats, the album is "dumb" in the best way possible, and embraces the "flesh" part of its title by making bodies move. It's far more dancefloor-oriented than any of Power's work with either of his projects, and more interesting than a none-more-black exploration of physical frailty.
As one half of the Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power has spent the best part of a decade challenging our expectations of modern electronica. But when he's not redefining genres with collaborative partner Andrew Hung, his extra-curricular activities have proven him equally adept in crafting dense, fluttering ambience as Blanck Mass. But unlike previous releases under that pseudonym, Dumb Flesh sees Power finally unite the two sides of his career; layering dense atmospherics over imposing beats.
If the main function for a musician releasing solo work is to stretch out from the uniformity of their main gig, Benjamin John Power has certainly made the most out of his Blanck Mass project. As one half of electronic psych drone purveyors Fuck Buttons, Power originally created Blanck Mass to explore beatless and formless ambient music. With the release of his follow-up, Dumb Flesh, Power abandons this singular musical mode, bringing with him myriad recording styles and techniques.Although he tends to rehash many ideas previously covered by Fuck Buttons — especially on noisy, claustrophobic jams like "No Lite" and "Cruel Sport" — Dumb Flesh finds the Bristolian musician working with some truly left-field song structures.
Since 2008's Street Horrrsing, Fuck Buttons has served to sublimate the noise genre into something that fans with lower tolerances for extreme music might enjoy. From the band's unlikely (but fittingly epic) use in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, to its status as festival mainstays, Fuck Buttons have brought music of the most punishing variety to an unusual level of popularity. If "pop" is what's popular, then Fuck Buttons fit the bill by definition, but no other act of their level can claim to scorch audiences with Fisher-Price-processed screams, only to rocket into a stratosphere of major-key bliss.
Benjamin John Power lucked out on his last name. The electronic drone musician founded Fuck Buttons in 2004 alongside Andrew Hung and they immediately began cultivating their combination of minimal techno and post-rock noise. With such intense music, his last name fit. In between 2009’s Tarot Sport and 2013’s Slow Focus, Power peeled away for some alone time.
In his solo work, Fuck Buttons member Benjamin John Power takes one element of his band's sound and magnifies it a thousand-fold. On his 2011 self-titled debut as Blanck Mass, he stripped away drums and propulsion to create gigantic cosmic drone-scapes. On the very different Dumb Flesh, he has taken Fuck Buttons' rampaging energy, turned everything up to 11 and, paradoxically, created his most accessible music yet.Dumb Flesh is Wagnerian blitzkrieg pop—a flaming meteor, an apocalyptic aftershock, a towering wall of sound.
As one half of the much celebrated electronica/noise/drone/dance duo Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power is no stranger to the furthest reaches of the electro-landscape. His solo project Blanck Mass originally explored more ambient vistas to those inhabited by FB; preferring washes of sound and static to propulsive beats. The debut album from Power’s solo endeavours felt like a distinct departure.
With his debut album, Blanck Mass almost inadvertently created a stone cold classic in the epic instrumental synth music genre, easily ranking alongside the epochal likes of Jarre’s Oxygène, Schulze’s TImewind or Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, all from an entire generation ago. It felt like a trip to the melodic beating heart of Ben Power’s other band, Fuck Buttons, surgically removing almost every beat, and injecting a heavy dose of benzodiazepine in the process, leaving behind ten slow-moving, drone-heavy atmospheres. You’d be a bit off to call the music ambient - just look at the amp-blasting noise issuing from all sides on super heavy tracks like ‘Land Disasters’, or the Blanck Mass track that was aptly used to fill the stadium during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, ‘Sundowner’ - but it all without any doubt was music that ‘floats’.
To dive into this new Blanck Mass record, let’s examine its title, Dumb Flesh. How can flesh — you might be wondering — be “dumb”? The word dumb as an adjective is complicated, despite its almost universal use as unintelligent or stupid. While it’s easy to see how it can be contrasted to intelligence, doctors and grammarians might still use it as an (albeit offensive) synonym for muteness, the phenomenon when someone has an inability to speak, or refuses to speak, as in the case of some yogis.
This second solo album by Fuck Buttons mainstay Benjamin John Power is grandiosely billed as “a comment on the flaws of the human form in its current evolutionary state”. The thrill of having the LSO perform his song Sundowner while the union flag was raised at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony seems to have gone to Power’s head, as the totalitarian self-regard of these bombastic modular synth symphonies owes more to Queen’s One Vision than it does to Kraftwerk’s Man Machine. Titles such as Atrophies and Loam pay lip-service to human frailty within a musical framework that suggests a Nike ad directed by Leni Riefenstahl.
It doesn't feel appropriate to describe Benjamin John Power's music as "noise". As either one half of Fuck Buttons, or in his solo guise as Blanck Mass, there is simply far too much melody, askew beauty and demented euphoric energy going on in his output for reductive genre labels to capture it all. Not that it isn't noise too. It's loud, and prone to puzzlingly appearing in Olympic ceremonies, and so forth.
Blanck Mass is the one-man project of Benjamin John Power, who is half of a rave-y, drone-y English electronica duo founded in 2004 with a name that can’t be published in this newspaper. Four years ago Mr. Power started releasing deep, beatless soundscapes on his own; both Blanck Mass’s first record and his performances at the time were enveloping, somewhat abstract listening experiences.
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