Album Reviews

Blanck Mass – In Furneaux

(Sacred Bones) UK release date: 26 February 2021

Blanck Mass - In Furneaux Five albums in to his unconventional and compelling repertoire, Blanck Mass’ Benjamin John Power continues to pursue unorthodox resonances in order to generate a cathartic response from his listeners. Born out of some unspecified familial loss and grief over the creative stasis brought on by the ongoing pandemic, In Furneaux, a travelogue split into two durational phases, is explicitly built around archival sound recordings accrued from across the globe over a 10-year period, and emerges as a ferocious and often anarchic statement of intent from the noise composer.

Boisterous from the outset Phase I is marked by an initial sense of economy, the first three minutes swelling around a sustained modular network of vocal samples and arcane looping synthesiser, bearing a mimetic comparison with the peripatetic elations of Tangerine Dream’s Edgar Froese. Then, at the four minute mark, Power throws a grenade in the mix and the constrained humming is simultaneously interrupted by a caterwauling multitude of sound and volume, the roaring amplification signalling the section of the journey where the traveller reaching some densely populated destination. The beats per minute thrust an arc upwards, assaulting the senses before the mid way mark of the 20-minute composition subsides to the sound of sparking log fires and jangling boat masts.

That environmental emancipation is short lived as a sustained reverberation begins to rise, eradicating the passive stillness. As you align yourself with its sheer force, it undergoes further revisions to incorporate a sliding wave of minor chords and what sounds like patches of dolphin song, and the track nears its extended climax through distinct chevrons of granular decay and insistent aquatic drone.

Phase II is shorter in length than its predecessor and features Power taking a less disciplined approach, its early moments accentuated by warped snatches a of an intoxicated street preacher, his autonomous sermonising fortified by a radiant assortment of meditative tones that point to Vangelis’ superlative work on the Blade Runner soundtrack, before it fragments into a stockpile of feed backing radar frequencies and deteriorating sound waves. Its sonorous improvisational back end is ultimately assuaged by a grand piano coda that beckons a feeling of serendipitous formality returning after the cascade of chaotic mutations that came before it.

Intricately rendered allusions of industrial conurbations (along with the rage and alienation they inflict on those who find themselves entrenched within) is a contextual avenue that a large number of musicians, who work within the sphere of dissonance, chose to traverse. So is the gesture of psychological self-analysis following trauma. As he signals his ongoing expansion into the impenetrable outer reaches of sound, Power chooses to harness the potentiality of both frame works. The album’s Dante riffing title is a retort to existential author Jean-Paul Sartre’s oft quoted line that “Hell Is Other People”, but with this thought-provoking cyclical album Power has concluded that maybe the devil isn’t at the crossroads. Instead, he lurks within.

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