Release Date: Feb 26, 2021
Record label: Sacred Bones
Five albums in to his unconventional and compelling repertoire, Blanck Mass' Benjamin John Power continues to pursue unorthodox resonances in order to generate a cathartic response from his listeners. Born out of some unspecified familial loss and grief over the creative stasis brought on by the ongoing pandemic, In Furneaux, a travelogue split into two durational phases, is explicitly built around archival sound recordings accrued from across the globe over a 10-year period, and emerges as a ferocious and often anarchic statement of intent from the noise composer. Boisterous from the outset Phase I is marked by an initial sense of economy, the first three minutes swelling around a sustained modular network of vocal samples and arcane looping synthesiser, bearing a mimetic comparison with the peripatetic elations of Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese.
For the past decade, Blanck Mass has used the hallmarks of ambient electronic music to create albums that refuse to be relegated to the background. The solo project of Fuck Buttons member Benjamin John Power often alternates between dreamlike soundscapes and punishing, high-octane electro-industrial that evokes an early-'80s cyberpunk vision of our present. Blanck Mass thrives within that contrast: waves of near-bliss crashing against the jet-black jetty before ebbing gently back to the ocean.
"I think your destiny has been very hard and traveling," says a voice halfway through Benjamin John Power's sprawling fifth album as Blanck Mass. It's a fair assessment of both the lives of touring musicians in general and Power's electronic odysseys in particular. Blanck Mass records are intense, energetic affairs, harnessing the most kinetic elements of EBM, industrial and noise to fuel songs that are expansive in structure and propulsive in tempo.
Returning two years after his barnstorming exploits on Animated Violence Mild, Blanck Mass —of Fuck Buttons, and aka Benjamin John Power—has delivered a project of noticeable difference, that runs at a counterpoint to almost all of his previous work. For starters, there are only two tracks on In Fernaux, "Phase I" and "Phase II." Taken from a plethora of field recordings produced by the global travels of their creator, these phases fluctuate between the serene and the maniacal. As with every project Power has been involved in up to this point, wear headphones at your peril, because this stuff gets loud.
Such was the case with 2019's Animated Violence Mild, a bullishly confident record, and career high for Power which saw the artist drive the project towards its natural conclusion, in this case, a dizzying cocktail of drag, drugs and the dregs of his distinctive sonic palette. With In Ferneaux - the fifth full-length release under the Blanck Mass alias - Power has opted to eschew that glass-smashing, head-crushing cacophony to hone in on his penchant for the serene and it's with mixed results. Serving as something of an aural expedition across a decade's worth of musical progress and iterative ideation, In Ferneaux sees Power turn his gaze inward to create an album comprised almost entirely out of archival recordings logged since 2011.
Photo by Harrison Reid In Ferneaux by Blanck Mass On In Ferneaux Benjamin John Power AKA Blanck Mass delves into his archive of field recordings and samples to construct an immersive soundscape that charts the grief and loss of the past year through a lengthy pair of tracks that move between rage and resignation, control and chaos before reaching a semblance of redemption and hope. The title references Dante but Power seems to act more as Virgil, the guide, leaving the listener to interpret the signposts along the route which twists and turns through levels of despondency, despair and transcendence. Dream logic rules this world, with periods of calm beauty, eruptions of noise and the sense that for every step forward there are delays, disruptions and detours that must be dealt with in order to proceed to a distant destination.