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Blanck Mass

LIVE REVIEW: Slowdive, DR Studie 2, 30.09.2017

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Slowdive live at DR Studie 2 in Copenhagen

Slowdive have played in Denmark since reforming three years ago, but their set in DR’s Studie 2 is their first in a venue rather than a festival since the ‘90s. The setting is perfect for the evening:  It’s intimate, it has just the right amount of polish, and it just barely contains the expansiveness of the music.

Blanck Mass proves to be a highly appropriate opener. Though he performs in almost total darkness compared to Slowdive’s dizzying light displays, he is a kindred spirit of the post-ambient derivation of electronic music. His pedals may be hooked up to synthesizers rather than guitars, and he may lean more towards harshness than delicacy, but there is a familiar dynamic range in the bright chimes he uses to counter his often aggressive songs.

There is a bit more consistency in the sonic range of Slowdive’s set. About half of the songs come from either this year’s self-titled album or Souvlaki, and they seem cherry-picked to match that evenly metered chiming and chugging. Songs that have been reimagined from their album cuts — for example, “Crazy for You” being pulled back from its looping electronica or “Dagger” being filled out from its soul-destroying minimalism — are now fashioned into something that fits neatly in a setlist. It’s a demonstration of the band’s maturity as musicians as well as their understanding of what exactly was successful for them.

It is also interesting to see how the audience have embraced the new album; songs like “Slomo” and “Sugar for the Pill” garner a bigger response than older songs like “Avalyn” or “Blue Skied an’ Clear.” The new album has clearly given Slowdive a new focus. With the addition of synthesizers to their live arrangement, it’s also given them a new shape. This subtle change adds a new and different density to their songs (and given us Rachel Goswell’s small, inflatable flamingo ring that she balances on her keyboard and keeps her egg shaker in).

Not every band that reunites after extended periods away is quite so committed to their current or future incarnation. Though Slowdive are still treading familiar territory, and indeed may now have played Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” live more than he ever did, they’re clearly back as a living band and not just for nostalgia.

LIVE REVIEW: Blanck Mass, Jazzhouse, 04.06.2015

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It’s the second night of Distortion and Blanck Mass, aka Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons, is playing Jazzhouse for his first ever Copenhagen solo show. And there’s no one here. On an ordinary night, this would already mean that everyone is missing out, but for a late show following hours of raucous street parties, this is the chillest way possible to round out the evening.

In the darkened room, half of the approximately 30 people who have assembled are sitting, staring up at Power, who is backlit by a projection screen. The next hour is an ebb and flow of ambient lulls and crests of beats. Without any beats, his songs have an Eno-esque softness. When paired with the freeform, shifting colors of the projections (except for the one that was a skull, that wasn’t so freeform), the mood is between serene and sedate.

When Power plays with Fuck Buttons, he has Andrew Hung to interact with, and that in itself changes the energy of the performance. Alone on the stage, he fares well enough, bopping behind his table and flitting from one piece of equipment to another. But we can’t even see his face, so there is an effect of disembodiment.

Granted, for his more beat-driven tracks, it makes less of a difference. The rhythms are scattered and compete with one another in a way that absorbs the movements into each other. On a different night with a different crowd, this could be a very hip party soundtrack.

But here, now, with the evening is drawing to close, a harsh buzz saw of static cuts through any comfort that had settled in the room. The jolt fades into more soft, enveloping synths, and finally rolls back into one of his multi-layered rhythms. The music cuts, the projection screen goes blank, and Power says an unamplified “thanks” to the crowd before walking off the stage.

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