A perfect after-hours accompaniment for contemplation and restoration.
Mike Diver 2011-06-27
Given the bewildering bombast and discombobulating cacophony kicked up by the man’s day job calling, the 8-bit-gone-nuclear electro duo F*** Buttons, you’d expect this debut solo venture from the excellently named Benjamin John Power to deliver similarly screaming torrents of circuit-board-sourced sonic violence. But rather than serve up more of the same as Blanck Mass, Power opts for a softer, warmer approach, summoning instead the ambient textures of acts such as Fennesz and Stars of the Lid, and even Moby at times. The end result, this 10-track collection, mightn’t startle to the same degree as Buttons’ more powerful (no pun intended) work; but it does sing with an otherworldly elegance, inviting the listener to place aside their worries for a little while and enjoy a session of consuming escapism.
Originality is not the name of the game here – many a comer to this set will note, easily, Power’s influences in shaping this immersive soundworld. But the box-ticking nature of its genesis takes nothing away from the effect felt – at times, this is a bracingly beautiful experience, up there with the best of its kind; and when it’s by the book, Blanck Mass still clasps the heart and squeezes lightly, encouraging its audience to find meaning in its slow-moving shades and undulating tones, to relate these pieces to experiences significant to the individual. There’s nothing cataclysmic about the track Chernobyl here; rather, it drifts like a sand dune seen from space, retaining its shape as it shimmies across a cerebral landscape of the listener’s own design, as gorgeous in its simplicity as it is striking of structure compared to the fare Power has become known for. When the static does descend, it’s backed by swathes of church organ-sized synth washes – so Land Disasters isn’t a slab of distortion, but a heavenly call for archaic machines the world over to bleep their last and join the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari 2600 in the great garage sale in the sky.
Inevitably, one has to be in the right (relaxed, or ready to become) frame of mind to get the most out of Blanck Mass – unlike either of F*** Buttons’ albums to date, there’s nothing here even the bravest DJ would drop into a floor-filling set. It’s the comedown after Power’s other lot are done with their sensory assault, a perfect after-hours accompaniment for contemplation and restoration.