Despite having built a compelling career in experimental electronic duo Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power has spent most of his work under his solo moniker, Blanck Mass, exploring polar extremes: his 2011 self-titled LP demonstrated ambient leanings, while second effort Dumb Flesh was a more rapturous affair.
New album World Eater is a different animal entirely. Baring its teeth at you right from the cover art, it's a scattered, wide-reaching genre exploration, setting out on a mission to envelope the zeitgeist as it voraciously rips up the landscape with the urgency of a bloodthirsty carnivore. It's an album that's hard at work exploring stark, apocalyptic visions — and yet, there's room for beauty amidst the desolation.
Album opener "John Doe's Carnival of Terror" winks at that greater impulse from the offset, its nearly two minutes of damaged music box loops giving way suddenly to a heavy, galvanizing club beat. That smash cuts into the nine-minute, torrential pummel of "Rhesus Negative," its industrial kick drum avalanche gearing into overdrive and building up a stark realm populated with black metal vocalizations and ghostly melodies. It's aggressive, overwhelming matter, but what comes next still manages to further disorient.
Lead single "Please" hints at some un-flexed pop chops, marrying soulful, evocative vocal samples with a fluttering beat and synth bass rumble all seemingly built for the club. Decorated with subtly deployed field recordings of chimes and shattering glass, the chaos and danger of the prior tracks is fully intact, but here it's mined as the scorched-earth backdrop to a dramatic, emotional plea. The vocal samples are almost always chopped and tuned into fragmented alien bits, yet there's an undeniable humanity to them. See also second single "Silent Treatment," a throbbing piece that builds an opening crescendo into dreamy, arena-ready caverns. Like "Please," it also features some kinetic trap booming.
Squeezed right between those more populist moments on the record, "Rat" is a brutal reminder of the world it's all bound to, its percussive thunderclaps propelling a gruelling march through surreal, wintery terrain. Shuffling the lighter material amongst the more abrasive stuff doesn't just serve to amplify the effects of each — it's good storytelling, painting in details of beautiful struggle amongst the ruination.
So when the listener reaches album closer "Hive Mind," the track works like an extended dolly out, as passionate vocal samples bump against the cheer squad-ready chants to reveal hopeful scenes of soulful radiance in the face of a ravaged landscape, twinkling and clapping into the fadeout.
Whether in Fuck Buttons or Blanck Mass, Power's music has consistently found space for stark, cathartic purges, but World Eater matches its brutal releases with hope and luminosity. It's a radical, adventurous exploration — and celebration — of the relationship between darkness and light. (Sacred Bones)