Blanck Mass – Animated Violence Mild (Sacred Bones, 2019)

Recently I was struck by a tweet from the contemptible air bag that is Julia Hartley-Brewer towards young climate campaigner Greta Thunberg before her trip to the States on a sail yacht:

The more I looked at it the further the ramifications of this sub-280 character piece of digital detritus set in: here is the epitome of white, middle-aged, middle-class persecution. It screams selfishness and avarice, aggressively defensive of their tentative position of perceived relative class power that dares to be upset by a 16 year old girl (and a foreigner no less). If you want to know why this country, this world, has the problems it does, there it is manifest. The petty bullying tactics of a woman who has contributed absolutely nothing of value to society, threatened by the bold and hopeful young who aspire for change so that we might have a future to live within, but which upsets her holiday plans today.

That little online exchange struck me as very much encompassing this notion of “violence mild”, where vigorous debate is replaced by needless barbs and provocative rhetoric in catty back-and-forths, where big concepts and complicated topics are shoehorned into ever smaller soundbites. This feels to me very much what Ben Power as Blanck Mass evokes in this record, mulching sweeping notions into an angry maximalist fervour that feels impenetrable below the surface. It’s possibly overused as an expression, but this definitely plays like some wildly garish soundtrack to this cartoonishly evil world we seem to be sinking towards, extravagant boss-battle music composed for these ludicrously embarrassing right-wing baddies.

No where here does this feel more potent than “Hush Money”, its cyclical synth riffs oscillating from grinding maximal energy to twinkling valleys between assaults. It rides this wild wave of noir menace, shuffling and fluttering and blaring and crying with comical, apocalyptic fervour; something really caught me off-guard when I heard this for the first time, just that overblown drama so instantly captivating. The grinding hedonism of “Death Drop”, whilst a much noisier and more aggressive beast overall, runs in a similar vein, punishing though it is with its screaming vocals that tear through the passionate percussion like the anguished woes of a gamer. “Open your eyes, answer me” he seems to demand, voice lost to the tumult, just another angry soul in a churning sea of online petitions and Facebook comments clamouring for attention.

The two pre-release singles of “House Vs. House” and “No Dice” possess a more Electronic character, and dare it be said, a somewhat accessible tone. Positively club-ready “House Vs House” seems to harbour some Trance genes in its glossy crescendos, the anger of “Death Drop” dissolving away into lavish synth builds and carefully overloaded peaks. Moaning lyrics melt out mysteriously, chopped syllabic fragments with an almost pleading tone suspended in the gladiatorial and tripping beats: “I should adore you” it feels like Power exposits, “what do you wanna say?”: love lost to political disparity perhaps? A friendship crumbling through online messages in all-too cinematic a fashion?

“No Dice” moves to a different beat though, drawing from the darkling vacuum that predecessor “Creature/West Fuqua” carves out in its glittering abyss and starry harp wending. No, it heaves with an insistent form, all huge percussion beats and slaps, staccato electro spasms and twinkling undercurrents that take a more resistant tack. It feels the most self-contained actually, this one-shot shoulder-check that seems to push back a little bit from a side filled with resignation; I think it might be my favourite piece here for that reason as it rolls with the punches.

I imagine plenty of people will probably find this pretty overblown, like it’s trying too hard and covering too much sonic space, that some of the pieces could be shaved down. I would disagree: this is a record that recognises a cursed world reduced to meaningless social media interactions such as the one above, provocative snippets that produce a level of drama far beyond the scope of their word count, whilst contributing nothing to the discussion. How did we ever come to the situation where these asinine cretins became the ones to beat, and why does it feel like we’re losing?