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Blanck Mass: Dumb Flesh (Sacred Bones)

The latest solo outing from Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power comes some time after his debut album under the name. While his first album was fine enough to my ears, it didn’t grab me the way most of Fuck Buttons’ albums had, and so I’ll admit that I had tepid expectations when I gave it a spin. I like this much better, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Perhaps I’d had enough of a break from FB’s material (their last album came out a couple years ago) to be able to appreciate the diversions of Dumb Flesh, with Powers experimenting more than ever with dance-pop flirtation. It’s still far closer to the world of Fuck Buttons than, say, Röyksopp, but there are much more overt nods to the blissful potential of club anthems here, sublimated primarily by Power’s insistence on cascading effects and healthy amounts of distortion. So there is both a shoegaze and psychedelic quality to most of the arrangements, occasionally a more industrial grind, but there’s also a rather immediate accessibility to most of the album that renders the potential bite of that edge far more approachable. A partial exception is the finale, “Detritus,” which lives up to its name with a squall of feedback and distorted noise for most of its first half. It’s somehow a fitting yet surprising finale, as is Power needed to remind us that he’s still very much capable of bringing the noise, full on, but thankfully he relieves the tension with some blissed out, hazy pads, before ending with a triumphant swell of thunderous joy.

Despite Power’s tendency to flirt with a darker edge (considering particularly the creepy backwards looping of the opening cut), it’s that bright white beam of optimism that seems to be at the core of most of these tracks, exuding a brightness that is contagious. It’s likely to appeal to fans of noisier fare and more blissed out grooves equally, a bright spot in Power’s often impressive repertoire.

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