The opening track, “Loam,” on the latest full-length album from Blanck Mass begins as a confused muffle of sounds that resembles someone speaking underwater. The song then mellows out midway and becomes the sonic equivalent of a soft strobe light, electronic beats skipping gently toward a languid conclusion.
Blanck Mass, born Benjamin John Power, performed “Loam” also as an opener for his show at DC9 on Tuesday night as a stop on his tour to support the album and an ensuing EP, the Great Confuso, both released last year. He drew a dedicated crowd excited to dance to Blanck Mass’ very accessible cut on music that occasionally borders both neo-psychedelia and dark ambient pop.
Loam means soil, and it’s clear that Blanck Mass envisions this to mean “clay” as in material for sculpting a human form. The album, Dumb Flesh, thematically explores how human beings are victims of their biology, responsive to the biological stimuli of all mammals despite our intellectual yearning to strive for something more.
Blanck Mass follows up “Loam” with “The Great Confuso Pt. 1,” a crowd-pleasing composition that places the British musician in the middle of Vangelis and Kavinsky. “The Great Confuso Pt. 1” demonstrates Blanck Mass’ admiration for electronic percussion as well as his use of vocals as an instrument in the mix of droning ambience. You never hear a word but the flavoring of human voice in small bits or bobs gives the song some warmth.
By contrast, the airier “No Lite” from Dumb Flesh strips away everything to a light drone. It could rather be sly theme music for a murder mystery show set under the heady lights in London clubs with its inviting yet curious atmospherics.
Watch the official music video for “Dead Format” by Blanck Mass on YouTube:
Soon, Blanck Mass gets a little darker with “Dead Format” (above), a song that has more body than a song like “No Lite” with a fuller range of twists and turns, as if you had orchestrated shiny electro from formless radio static. The song is a dancefloor favorite at DC9, and a very welcome sophisticated crowd isn’t afraid to kick up their black boots in time to the music.
The video for “Dead Format” also underscores the importance of visuals in the Blanck Mass show. I didn’t fixate on the video screen behind him myself, but he certainly brought a cinematic flair to his production. Sticking to Dumb Flesh, Blanck Mass closes his show out with “Atrophies” and “Detritus,” both words that speak of waste and decay. The first song is a lighter number while the latter is one of the densest on the album, full of grinding notes slowly churning together and then relaxing as if in a slow-motion car crash.
Watch an hour-long set from Blanck Mass at the Boiler Room in London from August 2015 on YouTube:
Blanck Mass continues his tour tonight in Chicago on his way to SXSW in Austin for several performances next week! He wraps up his current tour in Los Angeles on March 19. Check him out for a great opportunity to open your mind and ears to some pleasantly dark ambience.