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Blanck Mass Animated Violence Mild

Animated Violence Mild
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Continuing to move forward from the droning weirdness he created as part of revered duo Fuck Buttons, in 2019 Ben Power has fully embraced the art of the electro banger. His core musical identity is still steeped in volume and aggression, but on Animated Violence Mild there is an increased focus on musical simplicity and plain old big sounds.

Following the brief and indecipherable conversation that is the intro track, 'Death Drop' kicks in with a cinematic sound that could be straight from a sci-fi blockbuster soundtrack. It's a bold statement of intent, full of brash leads and black metal shrieks which call to mind rising synthwave act GosT. This comparison in itself raises the inescapable shadows of the likes of Perturbator and Carpenter Brut, and although Blanck Mass' approach is certainly more orchestrated and layered, it's hard not to wonder whether the popular resurgence in over-the-top synthwave played a role in the sound palette chosen here.

Power has not lost his skill in crafting surging lead melodies

Long tracks have always been on the menu in both of Power's projects, but some tracks on Animated Violence Mild raise questions about whether the newly streamlined, hard-hitting content is worthy of six or seven minute runtimes. The shorter, almost gothic, grooving rave of 'Hush Money' seems a more suitable portion size.

There are certainly fewer ideas and less focus on progression than on previous landmark efforts World Eater and Dumb Flesh here, but Power has not lost his skill in crafting surging lead melodies that burst through the surface of densely compiled synths. The difference is that the tension that leads to these releases feel a little lacking at times and some of the melodies themselves have lost a little of their bite, falling more in line with indie-leaning electro-pop outfits like I Break Horses or Crystal Castles at their less insane. Make no mistake, the bangers have always been there in his back catalogue, but never in such high concentration.

the whole comes across as somewhat one-dimensional

There's a very consistent tone across Animated Violence Mild - cemented by the Blanck Mass calling card of chopped up vocal samples - and if you're after pounding electronic anthems then you'll find plenty here, but the whole comes across as somewhat one-dimensional and the reduced sound palette means that by about halfway through the songs start to blur into one.

Closing track 'Wings of Hate' is the only one that truly feels like the Blanck Mass of old, so it's a shame to see it come too late to make enough of a difference. Perhaps a sadly underwhelming and weirdly clean release from a generally noisy and leftfield pillar of underground electronic music is part of a grand, dystopian concept, but unfortunately in this case you're better off sticking to the back catalogue.

Richard Spencer

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