Benjamin John Power, aka Blanck Mass and one half of Fuck Buttons, used 2018 as a time of creation and self-reflection. Coming off his acclaimed project World Eater, he spent the year further exploring his chaotic blend of electro-industrial, with noisy, powerful melodies, throttling beats, and distorted screams. Then, struck by a personal loss during the latter period of production, the concept of his latest album forced its way. Power’s Animated Violence Mild drops unrelenting electro-industrial melodies, practicing excess to explore personal grief and the global devastation of consumerism.
Power refers to consumerism as the “the snake we birthed”, a serpent we have let grow and roam to our detriment. And just as our learned desire for excess can never be satiated, Animated Violence Mild engages in an endless chase for excessive noise and melody. Power’s circling tracks begin and end like a snake that coils upon itself. “Death Drop” uses iteration after iteration of the opening power synth melody, imbuing a plastic, repackaged ecstasy with every arpeggio sequence.
Similarly, “Love Is a Parasite” sticks to a melodic foundation while alternating from theatrical breakdowns, melodramatic piano interludes to blissed-out, synthetic rushes. While each melody begins as a spectacle, every repetition peels away layers of vigor to eventually uncover repressed grief. In this way, Power thoughtfully uses excess as a tool for reflecting upon and dismantling the affectations of consumerism.
Surprisingly, in an album full of furious electro-industrial music, there are a couple of pop-adjacent cuts. “No Dice” slightly turns down the noise and pace to lay the foundations for a pop banger. Power brings together catchy vocal cuts, slamming percussions, and dramatic synth hits to create the ’80s tinged experimental pop song. Perhaps, this modern, maximalist rendering of ’80s synthpop tropes may call for a feature from a pop vocalist like Charli XCX or Dorian Electra, but regardless, it is an essential aesthetic switch amidst the surrounding noise.
Even more, “House vs. House” could pass at an EDM festival with its anthemic synth lines, processed pop vocals, and thrusting beat. Yet, even as these popular tropes dominate the track, it does not truly cross into the mainstream. Rather, Power remains conscious of his use of these commodified sounds. His blatantly excessive use of uplifting synths and clap-inducing build-ups almost satirize the culture industry that is EDM, creating a spectacle of recycled electronic sounds.
Often, personal grief can choke perspectives, limiting lamentation to inward battles. However, personal grief is always attached to broader consequences, and Animated Violence Mild is a project that confronts it all. Power’s excessive pursuit for melodic ecstasy speaks to the careless game of consumerism. While we chase after the quick gratification, we mindlessly step over the ever-mounting consequences of exploitative labor and environmental degradation.
As Power says, “In this post-industrial, post-enlightenment religion of ourselves, we have manifested a serpent of consumerism which now coils back upon us”. Animated Violence Mild and its spinning melodies reflect upon the consequences of this snake, that is the undeniable interconnections between personal grief and global devastation.