March 5th | Loco Klub
Passing by the vacant new builds of Temple Gate feels rather appropriate ahead of tonight’s show. Performing in the close confines of Loco Klub, Blanck Mass is an artist whose most recent releases have provided aesthetic commentary on the perils of late-capitalism’s consumption and excess.
Animated Violence Mild, the most recent album released under this solo moniker, is some of the most aggressive music of Benjamin John Power’s career. Channeling the artist’s despondency at the world’s drive toward self-destruction, it confronts the listener with candy floss and brimstone. Accompanied by the visuals it deserves, tonight’s performance demonstrates how Power has developed an experience which conveys his subject matter without being heavy-handed.
Joining Blanck Mass on this mini-tour is Glasgow-based artist, Russell Haswell. A connoisseur of noise, his palette tonight includes discombobulated drum machines and blasts of eyeball-vibrating sound. As suited to a gallery as he is to Loco Klub, Haswell wrestles challenging compositions from his gear in between flippant exchanges with the crowd. Stage chat tonight mainly consists of coining track names like ‘Jeremy Deller is a Leech’ on the fly.
The response is inevitably mixed, Haswell’s set forgoes much of what would be considered a prerequisite to popular music. It’s so confrontational and subversive, it’s likely to be on a CIA blacklist. Yet for those who accept the health warning and stay, it’s a support set that offers a glimpse at one of Britain’s underappreciated boundary-pushers.
As Power soundchecks, the room quickly fills in anticipation. Soon enough, his silhouette stands out stage left and from here, strobes repeating, the show proceeds like the moments before take-off. Projections of fragmented TV commercials flicker overhead. The producer’s distorted soundscape fills the room and a powerful, chest-high bass rises through the floor to start AVM opener, ‘Death Drop’. It’s the beginning of a set that rarely dips below sensory overload.
For all the focus on the aggression and intensity of Blanck Mass, it’s the music’s contrasting elements that manifest the night’s best moments. Sugar coated 80s synth melodies, best exemplified on ‘House vs. House’ and ‘Love is a Parasite’, inspire moments of introspection that glimmer amidst the industrial cacophony. At one point, pink bubble writing struggles to be legible through the visual noise of the display behind Power. It’s an accurate visual representation of the sonic landscape he creates.
Tension that has been building throughout the set culminates in album closer, ‘Wings of Hate’. Confronted with an endless Doctor Who-style vortex on the screen in front, the track marches forward in epic fashion, its slow-moving melody spreading its wings over mechanical beats. It’s an incredibly dramatic moment, ramping up tension, like a roller coaster about to drop.
Stepping out of Loco Klub tonight is a similar experience to returning from a treadmill onto stable ground: nothing seems steady any longer. The contrast between the empty concrete plaza, flanked by empty offices, and the intense sensory experience of the show, is a moment of real disconnect. It shows the power of Power’s audio-visual assault, intensified by the intimate dimensions of what has become one of Bristol’s best loved venues.
See the video for ‘Love Is A Parasite’ here: