Inspired by their recent appearance in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, my Sunday Night Ambient review is Blanck Mass’s self-titled debut LP. This isn’t going to be long (or good), since my motivation is nil right now.
I believe that many people see Drone as a single faceted genre, that they dont truly understand nor appreciate the scope and incredible power it holds. Drone, much like the label “ambient”, is a broad and loosely defined term that incorporates within it an enormous variety of sounds; for instance, Thomas Koner sounds nothing like Tim Hecker, nor either of them like Boris, and so on. It doesn’t “all sound the same”, and most importantly, yes, it does impart a powerful emotional impression on the listener. Blanck Mass is a truly cerebral listening experience.
Blanck Mass is a leviathan of an album, its glacial pace and vast walls of glistening, shimmering sound just hang in the darkness for an eternity, smothering the listener in its oppressive weight. Yet, within this galactic-scale sound that inches forwards at a positively geological speed, there are short-lived eddies and flurries that break the “monotony”; failed evolutionary offshoots that just add extra textural flavours to the tracks. Opener “Sifted Gold” deviates little from its path, save for a few samples, just those little textures to add to the whole.
The track that reminded me of this album’s existence during the Olympic Ceremony, “Sundowner”, is my absolute favourite track. Not since Fennesz’s “Glide” have I heard a piece of drone so massive and so euphoric; its vast walls of feedbacked guitar and the shimmering majesty of some sparkly flanger feel like an 8 minute crescendo, evoking a spine-tingling sense of wonder and ecstasy that just refuses to end. It churns, it grinds, it yearns, it soars; there is no other way to listen to this other than at the loudest tolerable volume. Only a few drone pieces have ever really brought tears to my eyes (Yellow Swans “Going Places” being one), but its difficult not to get caught up in the majesty and power of this piece.
The rest of the album is curious; no other track quite reaches the climactic peak of “Sundowner” but instead mostly takes a more subdued, even melancholic tone. The gargantuan “Land Disasters” wallows in a vast wall of abrasive guitar feedback, but is carried along by a beautiful wash of triumphant, piercing drone, the piece evolving from one of fugue and sadness to hope and light. “Chernobyl” is also not the disaster zone you’d anticipate; instead it is a low-key affair, its sound feels distal and sad, like someone surveying the aftermath of the event in slow-motion. Even “Fuckers” is not the cacophonic sound you’d anticipate; it feels restrained and mournful, a simplistic wave of drone oscillating back and forth for its short duration.
Blanck Mass is a strange album; the power and abrasiveness of Fuck Buttons is nowhere to be seen; instead we have tracks that feel dilated and restrained, sailing smoothly and without interruption through the abyss. Even so there is an underlying anxiety and melancholy throughout the entire album; while sometimes it is quelled and replaced by a heady and overwhelming optimism (“Sundowner”), there is too little of it to hold back the wall of sound that is concern and worry.
Ps, maybe you’ll understand why I love this track so much: