'World Eater' crashes into an electronic scene that has maybe moved too far into the realm of easy listening
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There seems to be something chasing Benjamin Power. From the earliest primal screams of his work with Andrew Huang in Fuck Buttons, Power has made music that propels, that tears away at the edges and ignores perfection and refinement in favour of unceasing momentum. He paints with volume rather than detail, finding in each track a new way to intensify the sound, to double down even when it feels like things are rolling at full speed. From the opening track, you know where you are: pretty synth raindrops gently cascade before pitched-up vocals enter with manic urgency and the album jumps into life, leading straight into a second track (‘Rhesus Negative’) that feels like Boards of Canada‘s ‘Telephasic Workshop’ played through blown speakers at double speed: confounding, relentless and a little bit creepy. This is the pitch World Eater keeps up for much of the rest of its 48 minutes.
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‘World Eater’ crashes into an electronic scene that has maybe moved too far into the realm of easy listening, a world of hand-claps and soft synth pads, music shared through Youtube mixes illustrated with photos of palm trees lifted from aspirational instagram accounts. World Eater isn’t aspirational, it’s nasty. it’s the sort of music you pause when someone knocks on the door. it’s the sort of music you listen to when you need to wallow in your anger, not assuage it; when you want to feel righteous and charged up and weird. In a world of Bonobos and Tychos, Blanck Mass offers something very different indeed – It’s music with bad vibes, music to empty a coffee shop. The chopped up, wailing vocals bring Oneohtrix Point Never‘s ‘Garden of Delete’ to mind, and the comparison makes sense – both artists are playing with a sound on the other side of the looking glass to now-omnipresent tropical house hooks, using distorted human sounds to add colour just as that scene does, but in a way somehow more sinister, sadder, the very opposite of chill.
That isn’t to say that ‘World Eater’ is ugly. Tracks like ‘Please’ and ‘Silent Treatment’ are actually quite lovely, in their own brutalist way, that same way a high rise building can be beautiful at the right time of night. There is nothing here as triumphant as his work with Fuck Buttons, nothing like a ‘Surf Solar’ or ‘Hidden XS’, but then that band would never dare do something as plainly lovely as ‘Naked’, a little interlude towards the end of the album that brings to mind nothing so much as Washed Out and the class of Summer 2008. Power still hasn’t made the great Blanck Mass record he’s surely capable of, but over three albums he’s managed to turn this project into something very distinct from his first band, something worthy of your attention. World Eater is that rare record that oscillates from brutal to ethereal (sometimes over the course of one track) without ever feeling disjointed.
By the time he wraps it up with ‘Hive Mind’ that initial relentlessness has subsided, and it feels like a well earned moment of quiet – it’s also the best track on the album, and you wonder if for all his pugilistic talents that next time Power wouldn’t benefit from turning down the volume a little.