Fuck Buttons and Blanck Mass

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Street Horrrsing (2008), 7.5/10
Tarot Sport (2009), 7/10
Slow Focus (2013), 6.5/10
Blanck Mass: Blanck Mass (2011), 6.5/10
Blanck Mass: Dumb Flesh (2015), 6/10
Blanck Mass: World Eater (2017), 7/10

Bristol's duo Fuck Buttons (Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power) debuted as the English equivalent of Black Dice, purveyors of the combination of electronic noise and arcane melody. While the idea was not terribly original, the implementation on Street Horrrsing (ATP, 2008) was flawless. Bright Tomorrow was the revelation single, but its disco beat and its humble church-like organ melody were misleading. Their aesthetic manifesto, the ten-minute Sweet Love For Planet Earth, is different things at different layers: ambient piano music, crackling guitar drone, pulsing industrial reverb. The latter evolves into a sort of heavy-metal riff before a distorted abominable voice starts vomiting (not quite singing). The rest is a well-groomed hell. The ten-minute Okay Let's Talk About Magic is little more than a jetstream of distorted electronics that mutates slowly, occasionally colliding with a wind of desperate voices. The same kind of abrasive drone constitutes the backbone for the nine-minute threnody Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise, that resurrects Suicide's sinister/anthemic rituals minus the neurotic beat. A frenzied but irregular rhythm mauls the piercing drone of the nine-minute Colours Move while the organ intones a macabre hymn in preparation for the delirious shrieks that emerge from the darkness. The shortest piece, Ribs Out, is a surreal novelty with tribal drums and a monkey-like scream that bounces back and forth: the court jester entertaining the king while the guests of the orgy are being slaughtered. (Translation by/ Tradotto da Antonio Buono)

Il duo di Bristol Fuck Buttons (Andrew Hung e Benjamin John Power) si presenta come l’equivalente inglese dei <A HREF= http://www.scaruffi.com/vol7/blackdic.html >Black Dice</A>, fornitori di una combinazione di rumore elettronico e melodia arcana. Per quanto l’idea non sia terribilmente originale, l’esecuzione su <B>Street Horrrsing</B> (ATP, 2008) è impeccabile.

<I>Bright Tomorrow</I> è il singolo rivelazione, ma il suo battito disco e la sua umile melodia di organo quasi da chiesa sono ingannevoli. Il loro manifesto estetico, <I>Sweet Love For Planet Earth</I>, di dieci minuti, è un insieme di cose diverse a livelli diversi: musica ambient per piano, un drone scricchiolante di chitarra, un pulsante riverbero industrial. Quest’ultimo evolve in una sorta di riff di heavy metal prima che un abominevole voce distorta inizi a vomitare (piuttosto che cantare). Il resto è un inferno ben architettato.

<I>Okay Let's Talk About Magic</I>, sempre di dieci minuti, è poco più che un unico flusso di elettronica contorta che muta lentamente, di quando in quando entrando in collisione con un vento di voci disperate. Lo stesso genere di drone abrasivo costituisce la colonna vertebrale per la trenodia di novi minuti <I>Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise</I> che riesuma i rituali sinistri/anthemici dei <A HREF= http://www.scaruffi.com/vol4/suicide.html >Suicide</A> privi della pulsazione nevrotica. Un ritmo convulso ma irregolare bistratta il lacerante drone di <I>Colours Move</I>, di nove minuti, mentre l’organo intona un inno macabro prima degli urli che sorgono dall’oscurità. Il pezzo più breve, <I>Ribs Out</I>, è una novelty surreale con percussioni tribali scossa da versi di scimmia: il giullare di corte che intrattiene il re mentre gli ospiti dell’orgia vengono trucidati.

Tarot Sport (ATP, 2009) is a spectacular compromise between atmospheric soundpainting and rhythmic expressionism. Olympians melds a relentless techno locomotive and a majestic organ melody. The gallopping Flight Of The Feathered Serpent, enveloped in a melodic distortion, represents perhaps the best fusion of techno and shoegazing. The Lisbon Maru is a simple rhythmic progression protracted long enough to be swallowed into a glacial distortion. The more sophisticated Surf Solar blends a galactic drone, a fibrillating polyrhythm and processed voices in a seamless disco orgy.
The shorter pieces tend to be even more inventive. The fractured android melody of Rough Steez is laid bare over a trotting syncopated beat. The android noise and samba-like syncopation of Phantom Limb decay into a disorienting helicopter-like beat from which Space Mountain emerges: it's another shamelessly propulsive bullet train. The dazzling elaboration of elementary ideas and the never self-indulgent rhythmic verve keep the Fuck Buttons racing against reason, even though this album is less cryptic and awe-inspiring than the debut.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Emanuele Marinacci )

Tarot Sport (ATP, 2009) Š uno spettacolare compromesso tra il soundpainting d'atmosfera e l'espressionismo ritmico. Olympians fonde insieme un'inarrestabile locomotiva techno e una maestosa melodia d'organo. La sfrenata Flight Of The Feathered Serpent, avvolta in una distorsione melodica, Š forse il pi— riuscito esperimento di fusione di techno e shoegaze. The Lisbon Maru Š una semplice progressione ritmica protratta fino al punto di essere inghiottita in una distorsione glaciale. La pi— sofisticata Surf Solar fa confluire un drone galattico, un fibrillante poliritmo e voci processate elettronicamente in un'omogenea orgia disco.
I brani pi— brevi riescono ad essere persino pi— creativi. La melodia androide spezzata di Rough Steez viene giustapposta a un beat veloce e sincopato. Il noise androide e il sincopato quasi-samba di Phantom Limb si spengono in un ritmo spiazzante che rimanda al rumore di un elicottero, da cui emerge Space Mountain, un'altro treno ad alta velocit… lanciato a passo parossistico. L'elaborazione sorprendente di idee elementari e la mai autoindulgente verve ritmica sostengono i Fuck Buttons nella corsa contro la ragione, per quanto questo album sia meno criptico e intimorente del debutto.

Slow Focus (ATP, 2013) opens with the thundering, torrential drumming of the eight-minute Brainfreeze in the manner of orgiastic noise that, after taking a breath, resumes with even more terrifying force, finally ending into distorted electronic drones when the word "percussive" has lost any meaning. That unfortunately is the peak of the album. There are countless ideas that pop up through out the other pieces, from the dissonant chamber music with sped-up techno arpeggios and a monks choir of Year Of The Dog to the bouncing videogame noise and skittering hip-hop beats of Prince's Prize; but several of the longer compositions are based on repeating the same pattern over and over again. The eight-minute The Red Wing loops a hip-hop breakbeat over an abrasive electric discharge (like a digital-hardcore remix of Suicide), an idea that could work if it weren't hijacked by a tedious new-age melody. Something similar happens in the ten-minute closer Hidden Xs, whose carillon melody is repeated endlessly even though eventually doubled by a distorted keyboard. Sentients introduces the gothic them by matching a heavy industrial march with ominous organ lines worthy of a horror film of a century earlier. Even more sci-fi and horror overtones pervade the ten-minute Stalker thanks to a martial android rhythm and a soaring electronic melody. Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung have become specialists in machine music that is very corporal, although not quite danceable, but sometimes technical skills end up draining the creative energy.

Meanwhile, Benjamin John Power launched a new project, Blanck Mass. Its first album, Blanck Mass (Rock Action, 2011), is an album of looped ambient-industrial instrumental music that stands out for its dense restless textures. The compositions are layered but the general structure is simple: a droning layer is juxtaposed to one or more layers of bouncing sounds. The brief thundering overture of Sifted Gold sets the stage for the eight-minute droning nightmare Sundowner, a forest of epileptic chiming that in its boiling belly hides a psychedelic lullaby. After the celestial intermezzo of Chernobyl, the ten-minute Raw Deal shoots a strident hissing drone against a boiling cauldron of steel balls. Sub Serious shows the ambitions of the lurid, elegant, exotic electronica of Robert Rich and Steve Roach, but the seven-minute Land Disasters is a wall of napalm noise against an holocaust of sunsets, and the album's standout. The 13-minute What You Know sets in motion a melange of gurgling aquatic patterns and magniloquent organ-like drones from which a stammering synth-pop motif emerges. Blanck Mass' music displays little or no development, and is intended to stretch out with no time constraints, but that is also its drawback: the loop could go on forever or could last just a few seconds. Here the artist lean towards the "forever" end of the spectrum, which is not necessarily what the listener prefers.

Before the second album, Blanck Mass emitted two of its best dancefloor anthems: the techno locomotive White Math (2012), a monumental hybrid of Neu's rhythmic hallucinations, Suicide's neurotic dirges, and Brian Eno's cyber-lullabies; and the fluid, orchestral crescendo of Hellion Earth (2012).

Dumb Flesh (Sacred Bones, 2015) marked a complete revolution in style from the first Blanck Mass album. Gone are the static noisy monolith, replaced by sleek production and dancefloor euphoria. The relentless throbbing stoned polyrhythms of the ten-minute No Lite sound like a collaboration between Giorgio Moroder and Transglobal Underground. The harsh overtones of the nine-minute Cruel Sport fuse the demonic disco-music of Cabaret Voltaire and the visceral, brutal, industrial music of Foetus (plus a vertigo-inducing collage of manipulated vocals). The eight-minute sledgehammer music of Detritus feels like a leftover from the first album, but an inferior one (left over for a reason). Alas, the listener is also treated to the light-weight muzak of tracks such as Atrophies, Dead Format and Double Cross, the price to pay for the two truly outstanding pieces on this album, No Lite and Cruel Sport.

Power also scored the film soundtrack The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears Re-Score (Death Waltz Originals, 2015).

The EP The Great Confuso (2015, Sacred Bones Records) the single D7-D5" (2016, Richter Sound Records)

The meticulous composition and arrangement of World Eater (Sacred Bones, 2017) came with a quantum leap in sound clarity without surrendering the manic turbulence of the first album. The nine-minute frenzied thrash-punk merry-go-round Rhesus Negative sounds like a Bollywood record shredded in a blender and then engraved in a music box with vocals that are mercilessly mangled and dismembered. Technically speaking, the most virtuoso production is the seven-minute Please, which is an agonizing gospel ballad whose elements have been completely and beastly repurposed. The Rat descends into the aggressive industrial-metal cacophony of the Nine Inch Nails with a festive, hystrionic organ that seems to pop out of Frank Zappa's Uncle Meat. The mix of Silent Treatment is exhausting: a male lead vocal that sounds like a neo-soul crooner, female vocals that sound like sampled from vintage B52's, and a pounding beat that every now and then explodes into fits of Scooter's hardcore techno. The suite Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked has five minutes of absolute mayhem, an electrical short circuit causing a galactic thunderstorm with lightning to blind the Sun. The eight-minute Hive Mind, a tedious variant on neo-soul, comes almost as a relief after so much sonic onslaught. Most of the songs indulge too long in their own (limited) tricks, but the overall effect is still powerful.

Andrew Hung's first solo album was Realisationship (2017).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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