Blanck Mass

Animated Violence Mild

A new solo album by Fuck Buttons' Benjamin John Power is informed by grief, terror and frustration, finds Derek Robertson

Hubris is a terrible thing to have to admit to. Watching the world fall apart and literally burn in real time is a particularly disorientating experience but really, do we have anyone to blame but ourselves? Benjamin John Power doesn’t think so. “We throw ourselves out of our own garden,” he writes in the press release for Animated Violence Mild, his fourth record as Blanck Mass. “We poison ourselves to the edges of an endless sleep.”

It’s a bleak image for bleak times. Biblical parallels are frequently – if a little clumsily – deployed by Power here: the forbidden fruit, oozing blood on the cover; a coiled serpent eating its own tail; an inability to resist temptation. In Power’s eyes the snake is now consumerism, and we are complicit not only in its existence, but in allowing it to grow wild and untamed, devouring everything in its path. “We betray the better instincts of our nature and the future of our own world,” says Power of our self-inflicted downfall; we are reaping what we’ve sowed.

For someone immersed in industrial dance and monolithic blitzkriegs like ‘Rhesus Negative’ and ‘Cruel Sport’ though, Animated Violence Mild doesn’t sound particularly angry or violent. Get past the brutal seven-minute blast that is ‘Death Drop’ – which features the same, indecipherable screams that powered Fuck Buttons’ ‘Sweet Love For Planet Earth’ – and things become a little more nuanced. Euphoric even. ‘House Vs. House’ boasts a chorus melody that’s pure hands-in-the-air joy while ‘No Dice’ sounds like Power trying to make a glittering EDM/hip hop hybrid to conquer charts and daytime radio as easily as dark clubs.

‘Creature/West Fuqua’ goes even further, morphing into the sort of ambient harp interlude that Florence Welch has virtually trademarked. It’s a jolt of entirely out of step with his previous work – after the maximalist assault that is ‘Love Is A Parasite’, a serene pool of beauty is the last thing you expect. Then again, Power has always teased with just how far he was willing to push his sonic barrages, stopping short of running everything off the rails; what better way to rebel than making the lushest, sweetest music of his career?

In 2019, it’s hard to know just how much angrier we can get. There was plenty of belligerence and protest on 2017’s World Eater, an album that quite literally bared its teeth, and a track like ‘Wings Of Hate’ delivers exactly what you expect it to. But there’s exasperation and frustration here too, and it’s not quite the maximalist, terrifying work one might expect given the subject matter at hand. Personal grief also informed the year Power spent working on Animated Violence Mild, so following a more reflective, emotionally resonant path makes sense. After all, responding to the clusterfuck we’re living through with some self care and catharsis seems infinitely more productive than yet more screams of rage.

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