Blanck Mass – In Ferneaux
Released February 26th, 2021 on Sacred Bones Records
Sacred Bones albums are always an exercise in high-concept weirdness and In Ferneaux, the fifth album from Benjamin John Powers’ solo project Blanck Mass, is exactly that. This is saying something, considering the four previous Blanck Mass albums, as well as Powers’ work with seminal British noise duo Fuck Buttons, were all exercises in high-concept weirdness. This record makes it all move, though; Powers’ write-up on Bandcamp claims that the album is about “pain in motion” and both sides of that equation are heavily present here. It is, however, more heavily weighted toward the latter. Much of Blanck Mass’ previous work has been comprised of noise passages that cohere here and there into pounding industrial-esque sequences. In Ferneaux dials down the throb and ratchets up more of the ambient. Split into two phases, the album starts with cold synth stabs that run at a faster pace until they are overlapping each other, and then dissolves this into noise and speed. Throughout, the music, built out of archival recordings Powers has cultivated over the past decade, warps and then degrades in a subtle, sinuous fashion removed from his previous stuff. The first part of “Phase II”, the most striking part of the whole album, strongly resembles a cross between Godspeed You! Black Emperor (in the sense of field recordings of street people) and calm, Blade Runner-esque drones that strike an interesting balance between tense and tranquil.
The sense of motion is completely at odds with the holding pattern we have all found ourselves in over the past year; this is, of course, on purpose. Powers mentions Sartre’s oft-used quote about Hell being other people and asks us if Hell isn’t, at this very moment, having to be one with ourselves. Raised in a world where our selves and our personal growth is contingent on the presence and possibility of others, is our enforced isolation the Inferno? The ghosts of a world formerly in motion, captured here on this recording, seem to point to this as being true.