Whether locked in a deep, hypnotic groove or awash with squalls of distortion and dissonance, being at a Blanck Mass show is a galvanizing experience that hooks you in and doesn’t let go.
On Saturday night (March 19), the show was at a cool, low-key venue in the Arts District called the Resident, which upon entering feels like one of those hip open-air cafeteria settings with food trucks you read about in LA Weekly.
When I walked in through the outdoor portion of the Resident, the hangout area was already packed to the brim with the fashionable debutantes and socialites eating street tacos and drinking beers from the venue’s smorgasbord of options. When I walked into the adjacent indoor bar/venue the kick drum was already thumping. It was time for Dva Damas’s set.
When they took the stage, people started rapidly pouring in from the outdoor area behind me. The duo’s immersive brand of techno/ebm got people to come up close to the stage and bob their heads to the spellbinding beat.
Dva Damas, made up of Taylor Burch and Joe Cocherell, is another fine export of LA’s incredible dark electro/industrial scene. Cocherell lays down percussion with a sampler while Burch controlled the loops and delivered laconic, reverb-laden vocals over the dense instrumentals. These guys were a great act to start the night with, and I hope to see them again very soon.
Following this set, I spent more time than I planned trying to be as amenable as I could be to the bar’s ridiculously good beer selection. Once a decision was finally made, it was already time for the penultimate set of the night, the venerable Silent Servant.
The Angeleno DJ, real name John Juan Mendez, absolutely killed it with his set. From start to finish the beat was constant and people were dancing like there was no tomorrow.
Whoever said techno belonged to Detroit would have their foot in their mouth once they caught a set from this guy. It was danceable but it had the edge of noise/industrial to it.
Sure, any of the major music cities have their reputable techno scenes, but LA’s is no joke and Silent Servant is proof of that. Using a sequencer, Mendez built these motifs of analog electronics, adding and removing elements to build tension throughout the set.
The fleeting moment between the kick being cut out and being brought back in led to this sort of 90s rave catharsis. When the kick came back in the tightly packed crowd went absolutely apes**t.
The purists may hear Dopplereffekt with a touch of Richie Hawtin while newcomers may hear a darker Gesaffelstein or DUST, but ultimately Silent Servant is a set that recalls the halcyon days of underground electronic music while concurrently acts as a fine addition to our promising DIY electronic scene.
After this it was time for the set of the night, Blanck Mass. The lights went out, and the stage was only lit by a projector screen and the flickering flashes from a table filled with all sorts of samplers, sequencers and other devices I could not begin to wrap my head around.
Then the man himself rose up behind the electronics and kicked off a visceral, otherworldly set.
Blanck Mass is the nom de plume and solo project of Benjamin John Power, who you may know as one-half of the drone/noise duo F**k Buttons. Power’s sonic output as Blanck Mass is a danceable yet overpowering spin on electronic music, at moments an amalgam of textural synths piling on top of each other and at others four-on-the-floor beats replete with 808s, claps and vocal samples morphed beyond recognition.
Watch the video for Blanck Mass’s track Dead Format
His hour set never had a dull moment, whether locked in an alluring groove or transfixing the packed crowd with moments of absolute sensory overload. The visual show played on the screen started with his insignia before morphing into patterns and human tissue-like ooze that reminded me of the cover art of his much-lauded second album Dumb Flesh, which was released last year.
Most of the material he played was from this record, and it sounded great in a live setting. As each sprawling composition unfurled, the music transmuted from dance into these gorgeous, strident soundscapes while, for those familiar with his music as Blanck Mass or with F**k Buttons, the noisy parts are truly something to behold.
A memorable part of the set was when he slowed everything down for the cerebral Atrophies, a personal favorite from Dumb Flesh.
The scattered rhythm and sample work here was phenomenal. It got the entire front portion of the crowd swaying back and forth as if they were brainwashed by the music.
Towards the end of the set, there was a jarring wall of noise that went on for about three minutes or so. Power kept building it, changing the arpeggiation of the samples until it lead into Detritus. Almost abruptly, the set ended just as it started, as this veritable boiling pot of sounds that kept brewing until the quiet came.
While a solo endeavor, Power’s work as Blanck Mass is also something that should be on your radar if you’re a fan of the F**k Buttons catalog or electronic music with real substance.
His FB partner Andrew Hung’s eponymous solo releases are really good too but the dark, brooding music of Blanck Mass is incredible on so many levels. It commingles the textural elements of FB with these danceable but mind-melting arrangements.
Though I hope to catch an FB set soon, this did more than whet my appetite. It was an indelible, intimate set from Power that showed that he can still tear the house down as a solo act.
If you have the opportunity to catch him on his upcoming UK shows, I highly recommend you do so. This is a show you don’t want to miss.