As the work of British musician Benjamin John Power, the music of Blanck Mass packed into the project’s newest album Animated Violence Mild feels well suited to have tons of appeal in the heavy music community, even as Power centers his work on harsh electronics as opposed to the traditional band set-up. He himself notes that he still feels a punk “grit” when writing and wants “to play the shitty sweatbox venues just as much as I want to do the stages and art galleries and things like that.” Out in full August 16 via the well-established Sacred Bones Records, Animated Violence Mild starts out on an utterly pounding note and essentially never lets up, while retaining an at times utterly stunning level of fascinating musicality. The atmospheric sweeps he incorporates into pounding brutality elevate this work marvelously. Tone-wise, Power freely notes that his new album packs a kind of “tongue-in-cheek reference” to the 80s and its electronica, but he still totally embarks on his own path. It’s not just a “nostalgia trip,” as he puts it.
Why the Musical Maelstrom?
Digging deeper in, Power has transformed some of the relentless anxiety wrought by the onslaught of dissociative consumerism into a captivating, fresh musical expression, which is no small feat. Although there’s not a particularly clear light at the end of the tunnel here or a freely available set of answers for the destruction enacted under the boot of the modern corporate onslaught, Animated Violence Mild lands like a totally necessary, welcome, and even fascinating accounting of our present collective place all the same.
“The main theme overriding on this record was one of where we have ended up with consumerism and how it’s allowed us to walk down this path where we’ve lost a connection with ourselves, with humanity and the world around us,” Power explains. “Whereas you know consumerism being something we kind of implemented in the very first instance to kind of make our lives easier with the increasing pace of being alive and being a human being on this earth — we implemented that in the first instance where we were in control, and now, we’re very much not in control.”
Surviving The Onslaught
Power singles out the modern food supply as one example where we’ve lost control. Put in a certain tight financial situation, or even just left without knowledge or the cue to actually look at the label on some packaged good, people tend to leave the flow of ingredients into their body right open without knowing all of what they’re even eating.
“Obviously it’s so easy for us now to not even necessarily think about what we put inside our bodies,” he notes. “We don’t know what half of the things are that are in the food that we buy. We don’t know what any of the ingredients are. We’re just so quick to take this thing off the shelf — we don’t even know what’s in there half the time. We’re not in control of what we put in our bodies which to me seems absolutely criminal.”
To address this issue, Power himself is vegan, although he freely acknowledges that the lifestyle might not be for everyone, including those whose culture embraces some kind of meat consumption and so may be more closely attached to the practice. Still, he finds a personal home with veganism, sharing that before going completely animal product free he’d been vegetarian for some 14 years. He explains that he was pushed down that path by animal rights concerns at first before other issues like the environmental implications of overzealous animal farming and more got tacked on.
“Once you start to spend a little time developing your understanding of the situation,” he shares, “it just kind of snowballs and you just start to think how could I ever not have seen this before?”
“I do see a lot of good in the world, and I see a lot of people trying to change things for the better,” he notes overall. “But then I also do see this other side, which is worryingly amplified — and I’m sure anybody does really. It’s very difficult to say, but we are at a very crucial point in the history of planet earth really I think.”
Painting the (Sonic) Picture
Although he’s been making music as Blanck Mass since 2010, you might also know Power thanks to his work with the also experimental project Fuck Buttons. As he’s progressed with Blanck Mass, Power says he feels like he’s further developed his focus to feeling “a lot more complex, and almost a little bit more direct in its melodic intent” these days.
It’s true — while complex and pretty huge sonically, Animated Violence Mild also feels definitively direct. You can’t really escape its sonic mayhem — and Power indicates that’s pretty explicitly purposeful.
“I do like to feel like I’m overwhelmed in sound when creating something,” he shares, explaining: “So what I do tend to do is completely overbear myself with sound for a particular phrase and then start to strip things away as need be.”
Besides his recent addition to his touring crew of audiovisual person Dan Tombs to provide video backdrop, Power shares that a defining point of live shows is to carry over that overwhelming sound. Adding to begin with that he “lives for” the live performance element, he explains: “I’ve always felt like if I’m going to be subjecting the audience to that level of volume and like overwhelm the audience that much with kind of like engulfing them in the sound — because I do play very loud — I feel like I have to do it to myself as well for it to be honest. So from a very personal standpoint, if it’s not as loud for me on stage as it is for everybody else I feel like a little bit of a fraud.”
The powerful music can be unsettling — but this feeds back into the theme of questioning current social boundaries. Dedicated to the concept of leaving options open for people dealing with the mayhem, Power does not even present his lyrics publicly. Even without that addition to the liner notes, his new record seems to allow for an embrace of a new narrative. Even as social pillars crumble, we can have a good time and forge new personal paths.
“Culturally, the world is so rich right now, I feel like it just doesn’t interest me to stick around in one place,” Power explains of his side. “I want to keep myself interested.”
Check out a music video for a single off Animated Violence Mild below, and pre-order the record at this link.