Posts Tagged ‘Blanck Mass’

As half of the experimental electronic duo F—- Buttons, Benjamin John Power has spent most of his musical career pushing toward extremes. His solo affair Blanck Mass has been a little more subtle; while never shying away from overload, Blanck Mass‘ instrumental vistas have been less blinding and more illuminating—to the point where “Sundowner” from the project’s 2011 debut, was rerecorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and played during the 2012 Olympics. It was a perfect fit, seeing as how Power’s edgier, noisier impulses mask a symphonic scope of veritable Vangelis proportions. Those two sides of his aesthetic don’t vie for dominance as much as strike a nervy balance on Blanck Mass‘ third full-length, World Eater.

F—- Buttons was based in Bristol, England, but Power now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. World Eater was recorded entirely in his home studio there, and there’s an immersive quality to the record that hints at the intimacy of the production. “John Doe’s Carnival Of Error” opens the album with a sparkling, playfully glitchy melody that comes across like an antique, windup music box — that is, until a sharp segue into darkness at the end of the song thrusts it squarely into the 21st century. From there, like an initiation, World Eater descends quickly into its harshest depth: “Rhesus Negative” is nine minutes of percussive abrasion, eroded loops, and blurry glimpses into a monochrome nightmare.

There’s an even more powerful approach taken on tracks like “Please” and “The Rat.” Each in their own way fuse fragmented melody,  even soul — with the industrial-strength sound manipulation of Power’s work in F—- Buttons. There are no lyrics, but the mood being projected is unmistakable: In the U.K., as well as the rest of the world, alarming changes are underway, That’s not to say the album doesn’t succumb to outright beauty in spots; in particular, “Silent Treatment” and “Hive Mind” stray toward pop territory, even as they build and collapse in a carefully calibrated chaos of eerie, incoherent vocal samples and beckoning beats.

The album’s most intriguing song is also its most complex. “Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked” is a triptych that encompasses all of Blanck Mass‘ sonic and emotional territory to date. Sprinkled with field recordings of everything from drums being pushed down a flight of stairs to the roar at the bottom of a waterfall, the track begins as a clattering onslaught of static before segueing into orchestral swells and then, finally, a section of melodic, shoegaze bliss.

There’s a great amount of tension and terror at the heart of World Eater, to be sure, but that anxiety is lightened by a desire to reconcile, heal, and find peace amid distress.

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Temples release their second album Volcano on Heavenly Recordings. It was self-produced and recorded at the band’s home studio in Kettering. It doesn’t take too long with Volcano to realise that, while all the things that made the band special the first time around remain intact, a noticeable evolution has taken place. It’s there from the outset: the beefed-up beats of Certainty reveal an expanded sonic firmament, one in which bright synth hooks and insistent choruses circle around each other over chord sequences that strike just the right balance between nice and queasy. One thing you do notice is that it’s harder to spot the influences this time around. It would be disingenuous to evade the psych-pop tag, for sure, but mystical language has been supplanted by something a more direct – and while those influences are still there, it’s no longer possible to pick them out. They’ve been broken down and blended together – fossilised into a single source of creative fuel, so that what you can hear this time around, sounds like nothing so much as Temples. This is the sound of a band squaring up to their potential.

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18 months and 10,000kms travelled since many needles first dropped on her debut LP Listen To Formation Look For The Signs, it’s safe to say with new album Preservation, Nadia Reid now knows herself extremely well. An ode to self-reflection and self-betterment, Preservation is the sound of Nadia showing her true colours, taking back a bit of power, and learning more about herself. Deeply intellectual but felt by all, it punches harder than before. Nadia’s beautifully warm vocals coolly wrap around feelings of turbulence, and exude a gently improved confidence. Returning to the production skills of Ben Edwards in his Sitting Room studios and long term guitarist Sam Taylor, this time around everything is rubbed in more grit and channels Nadia’s deftly profound take on life and whilst we already knew it, her own realisation that it is music which drives her. Nadia has seen the world she once knew become a whole lot larger. Simply singing her truth has taken her to becoming acquainted with her Scottish and Irish heritage during her first full European tour, downtime with long-time sister-from-another-mister Aldous Harding and even making the odd award shortlist along the way (NZ’s 2016 Taite Music Prize). Rather than growth in its most typical sense of any artist finding their way in the world, Preservation marks a natural passing of time – what you pick up along the way is a bonus.

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The always prolific The Wave Pictures release an exclusive 10″ on Madrid-based label Acuarela with five very fine covers and an original in tribute to the legendary Wilko Johnson, mythical founder of the rhythm and blues band Dr. Feelgood. The Wave Pictures are strange: they are an indie rock band without indie rock influences. Everything they have been listening to throughout the years is blues and American 50’s and 60’s rock‘n’roll. Nevertheless, they have never enjoyed those retro behaviors which slavishly copy the looks, sound, haircut and sources of the past which escape from the spirit of the music they love. They have their own style and they don’t want to be a blues band, but the blues is there, in the invisible nucleus of everything they do. Following on from 2015’s Billy Childish collaboration Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon, their recent acoustic record A Season in Hull and their latest LP Bamboo Diner In The Rain, The Wave Pictures pay tribute in Canvey Island Baby to one of their major influences: Wilko Johnson. The founding member of Dr. Feelgood credited as one of the greatest ascendancies of the English punk movement has also been part of the cast of HBO’s Game of Throne as Sir Ilyn Payne back in 2010. In 2013, Johnson was diagnosed with late stage of pancreatic cancer and played what was going to be his final show guesting with Madness on the television program Madness Live: Goodbye Television Centre broadcasted on BBC Four. It seemed as if Johnson’s career was over after he cancelled his two final shows in Canvey Island, but on April 2014, he reappeared at the Icon Awards ceremony to surprise the world with the news that after radical surgery he was now cancer-free. The Down By The Jetty album was an early influence on David Tattersall for the way Wilko Johnson combined the roles of lead and rhythm guitar. But for The Wave Pictures, Wilko’s music is also loads and loads of fun. Citing David “he’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic singer and an original songwriter, always finding a little trick in that old blues song form to make a new, poppy point”. Wilko Johnson doesn’t use effects pedals and neither do The Wave Pictures. They have made this EP out of fun. After all, it is homage to one of the most influential guitarists and to the career of this living legend. It is a 10” which has as part of its title the name of his birthplace (Canvey Island), 5 covers of Wilko’s songs and a new original Wave Pictures song.

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As humans, we are aware of our inner beast and should therefore be able to control it. We understand our hard-wired primal urges and why they exist in an evolutional sense. We understand the relationship between mind and body. Highly evolved and intelligent, we should be able to recognize these genetic hangovers and control them as a means to act positively and move forward as a compassion-ate species. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Recent global events have proven this. The human race is consuming itself. World Eater, the new album by Benjamin John Power’s Blanck Mass project, is a reaction to this. There is an underlying violence and anger throughout the record, even though some of these tracks are the closest Power has ever come to writing, in his words, “actual love songs.” “Maybe subconsciously this was some kind of countermeasure to restore some personal balance,” Power explains. On World Eater, Power further perfects the propulsive, engrossing electronic music he has created throughout his impressive decade-plus career, both under the Blanck Mass moniker and as one-half of Fuck Buttons, as he elaborates upon the sound of 2015’s brilliant double album Dumb Flesh. As massive as the sonic world of the new record often feels, its greatest achievement is in its maximization of a limited set of tools, a restriction intentionally set by Power himself. “As an exercise in better understanding myself musically, I found myself using an increasingly restricted palette during the World Eater creative process. Evoking these intense emotions using minimal components really put me outside of my comfort zone and was unlike the process I am used to. Feeling exposed shone a new light on this particular snapshot. I feel enriched for doing so.”

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Everything Is Forgotten, the new album from Methyl Ethel (Perth, Australia), is a vivid, compelling and mysterious creature, all sinewy, curvaceous pop nuggets and enigmatic currents. Written and recorded by frontman Jake Webb, the album was brought to life by acclaimed producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals). The pair’s collaboration infusing the band’s shoegaze dream-pop palate with electronic and polyrhythmic flourishes, allowing Webb’s keening, gender-fluid vocals and searing poetry to take centre stage.