A new direction and vision
It’s not uncommon to see an artist shift their sound after some time. After more than 13 years making music, Blanck Mass has made the most significant sonic shift of their career with In Ferneaux. The two-track album sees Benjamin John Power pivot harder into the direction of atmospheres and soundscapes than he ever has before. In doing so, he takes a slight step back from his previous masterworks but unlocks a world with more potential than either of those records ever had.
If people came here expecting to have their face melted, turn back now. Power is done playing with such unsubtle things, or at least, he is on In Ferneaux. Fans of his previous work will notice similarities, but instead of the cacophonic build of tracks like “Rhesus Negative” or “Death Drop,” “Phase I” and “Phase II” offer something more introspective and more destructive altogether. Nearly the entire record, save for a brief section in the back half of “Phase II,” is devoid of the pummeling percussion that has made Blanck Mass the favorite noise artist of people who don’t like noise. In the place of these walls of noise, Power has erected monoliths of texture and atmosphere that will turn any aspiring artist green with envy.
Of all the records released by Blanck Mass, this one feels the most like an “f— you.” That’s not to say that the record isn’t wonderful though. While it lacks the immediate, seared flesh appeal of both its predecessors and never quite hits their highs, it is something that Power clearly wants to make with his whole being, and he seemingly does not care whether or not someone else is interested in it. But what is most notable is that it seems as though he might’ve taken his time working on the soundtrack for Calm With Horses, as this duo of songs positively smacks of a film score.
But that’s not to say there is no substance to these installments. Quite the opposite in fact. By opening up the textural layers of his preferred sounds, Power is able to strip back the chaos until only beauty remains. And as he shows in the early portions of “Phase II,” he has allowed himself to layer on the chaos until it drowns out everything else. His new affinity for both of these extremes isn’t fully realized on this record, though there are eye-popping moments of quiet intensity and just straight-up brutality, and the potential that they introduce into his already mind-boggling oeuvre is almost stomach-churning in their implication.
Those who are already fans of Blanck Mass will certainly find things to enjoy on this record. The first eight minutes and a later two minutes on “Phase II” are absolutely face-ripping, and the textures found on “Phase I” are among the best he has ever assembled. The sheer intensity and experimental bent to this work may turn off some, but as always, Power shows that noise doesn’t need to be off-putting and can instead be a thing of beauty and power. If people want to hear the essential Blanck Mass experience, they should turn elsewhere, but if one wants a glimpse of the future of cutting-edge music, In Ferneaux is as close to a crystal ball as they’ll come this year.