Some record labels build a reputation for having a genre of music that it particularly likes to promote, whereas others might have a track record of releasing truly inspiring records. Over the past few years, Rock Action has grown into a label which has succeeded in marrying these two skills, to the point that whenever they release an album, it’s almost guaranteed to be met with a sense of anticipation and curiosity. Rock Action are now known not only for their post-rock output, (of the style that label founders Mogwai are known for releasing), but also as a label which champions electronic and instrumental collectives and producers such as Errors and Remember Remember.
So here we find ourselves with the debut album from Blanck Mass, the latest record to be put out by Rock Action and the creative endeavour of Benjamin John Power, also known as one half of Fuck Buttons. Recorded in a London home in the latter moments of 2010, Blanck Mass is an instrumental record on which Power has woven together synthetic sounds, samples and instruments in order to create an intricate, yet delicate and evocative sonic backdrop.
Opening track ‘Sifted Gold’ captures the sound of bubbling water, a chiming synth and crashing waves, and fits them around each other with a rhythm provided only by the heaving and sighing of the track’s dynamics. There’s a certain feeling of unease about this piece of music, as a muttering vocal is heard hidden deep in the mix, engineering an image of what feels to be an increasingly threatening landscape. The following track, ‘Sundowner’ immediately lifts the dark sensation created by the opener, instantly demonstrating how illustrative the tracks on this record are. The overall feeling of ‘Sundowner’ is glorious, graceful and fluid as bright tones and understated crescendos evoke images of vast, lush green landscapes and scenes unspoilt by technical influence.
‘Land Disasters’ is a piece that’s as elegant as it is bracing, a track which employs the force of dynamics in order to transport the listener to the exact environment that the instrumentation depicts. There’s a lot of movement within this record, but all of it understated with the essence of the music being to capture nature at its most intrinsic, or as Power himself puts it, to present “a collection of tracks loosely themed around cerebral hypoxia and the beautiful complexity of the natural world.”
Blanck Mass is an album made for attentive listeners, and an album that has been made to be played loud. A lot of vision and technical imagination has been expended on this project, and in order to benefit fully, either a dark room and a stunning stereo or a pair of really cracking headphones are required, so as to be able to draw out the intricacies and levels which have been so finely woven into this album’s fibre.
The work is so far removed from Fuck Buttons’ creations, that there’s not really any link to be made, other than the fact that the artist happens to have been an instrumental part of either project. Blanck Mass is an album to be considered in its own right, and very much an album constructed to lead the listener on a journey through its tones, movements and imagery. The music is so reflective of nature and landscapes, that it could easily soundtrack programmes about the universe, animals in their natural habitats or deep sea exploration. Blanck Mass is built to reflect the simple elements of life – the most natural, the most organic and often the most overlooked. And so, after ten tracks and precisely one hour, the final tones of Blanck Mass fade into silence – an enlightening experience indeed, but patience and your full attention are required.
Blanck Mass is available now on Rock Action Records.