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Blanck Mass - In Ferneaux (Album Review)

Tuesday, 02 March 2021 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Harrison Reid

‘Animated Violence Mild’ was the best electronic album of 2019. When that blood-and-apple-core-adorned opus was unveiled, newcomers and longtime Blanck Mass fans alike were wowed by its hybridity. Equal parts funky synth lines, metal screeches and erratic electro beats, it was a space where aggression and intellect collided head on.

But its successor ‘In Ferneaux’ could not be further from this searing sense of ardour. As opposed to the relative accessibility of ‘Animated Violence Mild’, context is key in understanding what this album seeks to achieve.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the backdrop. Musicians are scrambling for their livelihoods in a world without gigs, their only true source of income in a streaming-dominated market.

Fans are just as desperate to see their favourite artists in the flesh again, and government support for that multi-billion-pound industry has proven abysmal.

So, in a throwback eager to recapture the ‘feel’ of being on tour, ‘In Ferneaux’ is a mixture of tranquil electronic music with field recordings from previous Blanck Mass jaunts. The record may open with five minutes of soothing, dancing keys—digitised post-rock akin to masters Tides from Nebula—but what follows is largely static and chatter documented on the road.

On the one hand, in this tragically gigless age, there’s a soothing nostalgia to the buzz of amplifiers and backstage anecdotes. It’s an ode to something we all miss, trading in rare nuance and a stark rejection of cliches. Plus, the transitions between ambient tracks and the fleeting musical interludes are as smooth as velvet.

However, the commitment ‘In Ferneaux’ has to both the zeitgeist and playing its cards close to its chest is also where it stumbles. The only way you can truly understand the album’s goal is via outside information, be it a press release, interview or review. Without that knowledge—or indeed when we’re in a post-COVID world with concerts back—this will not be as powerful.

Strip context away and all you have is the eclectic verve of ‘Animated Violence Mild’ being succeeded by meandering static and chit-chat. In the early days of 2021, ‘In Ferneaux’ is a moving, understated love letter to a creative’s lifeblood. A year or two down the line, though, how much of that power will remain?

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