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Blanck Mass: In Ferneaux review – the very definition of niche

In Ferneaux represents something of a departure for electronica auteur Benjamin John Power. After the euphoric and abrasive maximalism of 2019’s Animated Violence Mild, and his work as half of Fuck Buttons, Power’s fifth album as Blanck Mass is a more oblique affair. A product of lockdown isolation, it comprises two lengthy soundscapes that blend his trademark layers of coruscating noise with sounds found on his travels over the past decade. Set out of context, these field recordings become for the most part wilfully abstract and very much open to interpretation: was this one recorded in downtown Bamako, that one at a Portuguese woodland rave?

Phase I begins with twinkling synths before hitting a bombastic climax, and then everything drops away around the six-minute mark, leaving only a recording of what could be a walking tour of an open-air cutlery-testing facility, which in turn becomes a slowly evolving drone. It ends with industrial pummelling. Feedback and distortion feature more prominently in Phase II, as does a gorgeous piano coda, while a carnival atmosphere prevails in the most prominent found sound. In an age of Spotified homogeneity, it’s the very definition of niche, but makes for admirably – and enjoyably – singular listening.

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