Favorite Tracks: “Death Drop,” “House vs. House,” “Hush Money,” “Love is a Parasite,” “No Dice”
The electronic genre hasn’t gone through a renaissance in a while, huh? It’s common knowledge to post-internet age music listeners that old heads eat their young, but when so many still outright dismiss any and all electronic music, the divide is harder to nail down. After Coachella ‘19, music Twitter had a ball roasting an innocent raver who detailed her first Aphex Twin set on YouTube despite her having ultimately enjoyed and appreciated the experience. To put it in reductively simple terms, one of the most glaring rifts in the genre is between upper-fueled Electric Daisy Carnival attendees saturating the market and the underground goths purveying noisy industrial. It hasn’t helped that those whom we look to to break new ground, like Lopatin and Ferraro, have been rehashing old ideas for the past few years with mixed results. But after nearly two-and-a-half years since his last album WORLD EATER, now more than ever before you can hear Blanck Mass’s ANIMATED VIOLENCE MILD bridge that divide.
One half of the duo known as Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power has been gradually putting some pretty stellar solo releases under the name Blanck Mass for almost a decade now. DUMB FLESH caught my attention in part because it was so strangely danceable. ANIMATED VIOLENCE MILD is a dash more accessible but still retains that darkness that Blanck Mass is known for. On paper, Power’s tools sound unbearable to the ear. Harsh noise textures laced with distorted, metallic vocals are on nearly every single one of these long, meaty tracks, but he’s able to shape them to be more digestible in a genuinely fun way.
Following the intro of what has to be audio from a hyped queue reminiscing on past shows while waiting to get into a venue, the utter devastation of “Death Drop” makes the album’s opening earn its name. The true thesis of the album, however, has to be “House vs. House.” The track title is a bit of a misnomer in that rather than putting two styles of house music against each other, Power synergizes an older and newer incarnation of house, creating an incredible mix that sounds like the last level of BEJEWELED on crack. Calling it video-gamey is no dig; there aren’t any annoying chiptunes here, and it’s clear through the album title that this is what Power is going for.
As ANIMATED VIOLENCE MILD goes on, listeners descend further and further into the depths of a sci-fi Neo Tokyo-adjacent cyber city. Right when you think a particular segment has outlasted its welcome, Power bombards the listener with an additional layer, though he’s always adding them on the sly. It took me about five listens through “Love is a Parasite” to finally hear the vocal samples that are utilized in bizarrely different ways but are so evocative. As grand and epic as the album is, there are little instances like this that hit so much deeper.
ANIMATED VIOLENCE MILD is so much more than just bleeps and bloops. The one artist that definitely can convert nonbelievers of electronic music’s deeper intentions has to be Powers under the Blanck Mass name—it’s a shame he doesn’t get as much recognition as other greats in the genre. If this is him acting alone, who knows what may happen if or when he reunites with Andrew Hung for another Fuck Buttons release.