Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Animated Violence Mild, the fourth album from Benjamin John Power’s Blanck Mass.
About halfway through “Hush Money,” the fourth track on Animated Violence Mild, the rapidly bruising fourth LP from Blanck Mass, it occurs to you that this must be what it’s like when the servers cry. The track, built on an electronic framework not that dissimilar to what Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis cooked up for Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, it ascends in its final third into a section that sounds like the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat, if that video game was about consumerism and Global Warming. Which is to say that Animated Violence Mild is an electronic freakout for these times, a mainframe battering ram meant as a salve for grief, and for trying to address the mess humanity has gotten itself into. According to Power’s statement on the album, the title comes from the idea that he believes, “Many of us have willfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed.” Which leads us to Animated Violence Mild, and songs with titles like “Wings of Hate” and “House Vs. House.”
As a member of Fuck Buttons, Power has a decade and a half of making punishing, intermittently danceable drone, but his Blanck Mass project, until now, was mostly concerned with just walloping its listeners; there’s a reason that the band’s last album cover was a dog’s fangs. Animated Violence Mild hits more like this album cover; a sweet texture punctured by moments of bloodshed, moments of bliss erased by dread. “No Dice” hits like a Knife song on HGH, while “Death Drop” feels like a musical recreation of that scene in the third Matrix where Agent Smith is multiplied and kicks Keanu Reeves’ ass. “Wings Of Hate” is the funeral pyre at the end of the disaster, an ever-climbing float into the beyond.
Animated Violence Mild is perfect anxiety-attack-aboard-a-commercial-flight music, an album so claustrophobic and gnarly, it can calm the kind of freakouts we all have in 2019. For 15 years, Power has been making uncompromising music, and Animated Violence Mild is another stellar entry into his catalog. In a music world and economy that praises moving toward the middle, it’s reassuring to know that people like Power are still out on the fringes, making music that is as affecting as it is devastating.
Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.