Question for you: do you believe industrial music should be more attuned with the past or future? If you simply answered ‘yes’, then Blanck Mass might be up your alley. This act, comprised of Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons, isn’t a pure industrial affair, but it does wield the mechanical weight of the genre while incorporating the agility that other arms of electronic music have. As such, Animated Violence Mild is a lot of things at once, altogether pretty great!
Possibly named after a (semi-)retired video game content descriptor by the Entertainment Software Rating Board in the US, Power describes his own work in a succinct way that I’d like to borrow from: ‘I believe that many of us have willfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed. Animated — brought to life by humankind. Violent — insurmountable and wild beyond our control. Mild — delicious.’ You can read the full description in context on the album’s Bandcamp, but I’ll be using these themes to help evaluate the music itself.
Animated might speak for itself, but here I go speaking for it still. It’s one thing to invoke sounds and produce an album capable of relating to other humans, but it’s quite another to do it well. Blanck Mass is, technically, all about layers. One listen to the single “House vs. House” shows musical levels as apparent as a bisected earth would show. Each sample and note can be uniquely heard – may take you a couple loops to indulge in each and every element, but the enjoyment you get out of that sort of dissection is reward enough.
The first song, at least the one after the intro track, “Death Drop” captures the feeling that implies nicely with a cavalcade of noise. It’s not harsh – the only thing inaccessible about it is perhaps how pounding it is – but it has a sinister, anxious quality to it, like you’re racing on a dark neon highway trying to outrun an adversary. The ‘hook’ of the track is a deeply shimmering synth that fits in, yet also clashes with the rest of the slams and punches of the mechanized beat. Buried vocals are nigh-indistinguishable from the other instruments, something that actually adds to the aesthetic for sure, just don’t expect to pry any purple prose from these songs.
“Death Drop” also showcases our next element of the album, violence. The cold steel of the drums and other percussive sounds in Blanck Mass‘ work is easy to associate with violence. Each song seems to jut from your speakers like the sharpened appendage of a malicious android. With “Wings of Hate”, we get a cataclysmic, glitchy ender that sounds almost like two songs very different songs played at once. Not a bad thing, just means you got a lot to think about in its sub-six-minute playtime.
Finally, mild. What makes Animated Violence Mild so delicious is its cohesion and range of sound. Everything comes together neatly, even its most disparate pairings. The easiest example of this is “Creature/West Fuqua”, a two-headed monster that starts with dense walls of what I’m sure are guitars and synths with some twinkly accouterments thrown in. It doesn’t relent for well over a minute, but when it does, we get an absolutely shimmering harp, lightly thumping bass, and some vocal samples. I can’t stop talking about this album without shouting out the other single, “No Dice”. It’s got a slight hip-hop flow to it, utilizing cleaner vocal samples and more traditional drums to back everything up, definitely one of the more danceable numbers on here.
Between all the styles and approaches on Animated Violence Mild, it’s quite easy to see what makes it so digestible – this is an album that’s manages to juggle a lot rather successfully. Really, the cover says it all: a scrumptious looking apple that hides gritty and gory internal works the likes of which are enjoyable to dissect. It’s a little different, a lot of fun, and it has more layers than an onion to peel back and marvel at. I like it! Blanck Mass created some real nice dark summer material to pump through your head when the moment calls for higher energy. Check it out!