Blanck Mass Dumb Flesh

[Sacred Bones; 2015]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: power synth
Others: The Haxan Cloak, Steve Hauschildt, Fuck Buttons

To dive into this new Blanck Mass record, let’s examine its title, Dumb Flesh. How can flesh — you might be wondering — be “dumb”? The word dumb as an adjective is complicated, despite its almost universal use as unintelligent or stupid. While it’s easy to see how it can be contrasted to intelligence, doctors and grammarians might still use it as an (albeit offensive) synonym for muteness, the phenomenon when someone has an inability to speak, or refuses to speak, as in the case of some yogis. A famous example of this usage in pop music is in the chorus of The Who’s 1969 song “Pinball Wizard,” which goes: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!” Another famous usage for its more popular use is in Nirvana’s melancholy 1993 song, “Dumb.” The song, featuring a brilliant cello riff, has a chorus with the words “I think I’m dumb/ Or maybe just happy.” Indeed, the word has so many synonyms that it can be hard to be satisfied with its usage, especially in a piece of writing: it feels weak and without direction. For a songwriter, or an electronic musician, this ambiguity might be appealing.

The word flesh is also confounding. For some, it brings to mind beef, pork, or chicken: perhaps it conjures scenes in a supermarket, glancing at cuts of edible carcasses displayed behind polished glass, or scenes in the kitchen, cooking a burger medium-rare or deep-frying a chicken breast in vegetable oil. For others, the word conjures up horror: zombies eating people in movies; piranhas consuming an unknowing hand accidentally dipped in a Brazilian river; a masked murderer wielding a chainsaw, cutting up people with psychotic pleasure. For others, flesh is pornographic: veiny penises entering lubricated vaginas without end; surgically operated breasts; fake moans; fake seduction, fake movie sets; and the ghostly presence of a spectator, erotically pleased with the display. The word can also have a medical significance and even a religious or Satanic bent (Goat rituals or blood sacrifices, anyone? How about the flesh of Christ, anyone?) depending on its usage.

In essence, just those two words alone — the title of this record — conjure all kinds of objects and scenes. It’s as if the music has already presented itself. But it hasn’t. Titles can’t describe timbres or structures: they can only point to them. The first song “Loam” is DJ Screw meets vaporwave and Aleister Crowley. “Dead Format” kicks things off with a noisy, pulsating rhythm that’s suitable for a John Carpenter film. (John Carpenter’s newest record, Lost Themes, has also been published by Sacred Bones, a couple months ago.) These songs could pair well with fights in Mortal Kombat movies. They are bass heavy, with an emphasis on mesmerizing drums and menacing melodies that have distressing auras to them, as if something is about to go wrong, as if chaos governs our daily lives, as if the Illuminati is actually planning a new world order as I write this very sentence. “Cruel Sport” has a vocal melody that feels computerized: an injured, bleeding cop trying to reach another cop via walkie-talkie. “Detritus” begins in a swamp of white noise only to uplift itself: that feeling of walking through a maze of people only to exit a tunnel enshrined by the bright lights of a stadium, sitting comfortably, and perhaps uncannily, in your assigned seat.

Could Dumb Flesh be the theme song to UFC 188? It definitely could. Could it also just be an impressive power synth album? Absolutely.

Links: Blanck Mass - Sacred Bones

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