Switched On – Blanck Mass: The Rig (Original Series Soundtrack) (Invada)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the first TV soundtrack by Benjamin Power, aka Blanck Mass – a surprising state of affairs, given Power’s prolific output as a composer. It would seem he has been biding his time, for as part of the duo Fuck Buttons he released three albums, as well as providing a good deal of music for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London 2012.

Since then he has turned to solo work as Blanck Mass, building a reputation for electronic music of unusual and uncompromising power, with a further five albums under his belt. The Rig is heading up Amazon Prime’s selection of January viewing, a six-part season with a stellar cast directed by Line of Duty stalwart John Strickland. In it, the crew of a North Sea oil rig encounter unseen forces that cut them off from the mainland, with far reaching consequences for their environment and the crew on board.

What’s the music like?

As with all the best soundtracks, Power’s response is one that vividly captures the environment. The weighty main theme is ideally pitched, punching through with concrete-heavy beats that capture the industry, the majestic yet brutal outlines of the right.

The early numbers draw the listener in, setting the scene as the main characters are revealed and established, and conveying the mysterious circumstances the crew find themselves in. Inevitably some of these sketches are short, and work best in the context of the full album, but the disorientation of both personnel and environment proves unnerving for the listener too.

At the same time the ongoing industrial processes are reflected in the clattering percussion (Flesh Meets Floor), the dripping pipes, the echoing chambers and the misty outlines of the vast structure. The unseen menace of the sea is there, too. Sometimes we fall back to companionship, often laced with uncertainty (Ghost), while key scenes such as Helideck build momentum. Power responds to the scenes in kind, moving between the claustrophobic corridors and dimly lit offices of the rig to the vast open reaches of the North Sea.

There are some striking moments. No Fore Without Flare captures the drama of that particular sequence, while We’ll Bring Him In is loaded with emotion. Charlie sends out wails of anguish, realised fully in the extended portrayal of The Wave. This is where the bottom drops out of the music, Power using subtle but striking pitch variations to maximise the discomfort. The story ends in relative comfort but the lasting dread remains.

Does it all work?

Yes. Inevitably there are descriptive elements to the score that are short and undeveloped, but when listened to as a whole the music for The Rig contains a great deal of substance. Power paints a vivid picture of the surroundings without ever resorting to cliché, and there are moments of keen emotion as the characters take over.

Is it recommended?

Wholeheartedly. His previous albums as Blanck Mass suggested Benjamin Power would take to the small screen like a duck to water – and The Rig is proof positive that he has.

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