Sacred Bones – March 3rd
It’s becoming rote to rag on 2016, but it was a banner year for bullshit. Benjamin John Power, AKA Blanck Mass, one half of noisy Bristolians’ Fuck Buttons, knows this. His reaction is the quasi-conceptual, semi-bonkers World Eater. Heroes die, ideals falter, and the album finds itself straddling the dichotomy of nihilism and hope that has characterised early 2017. Top-heavy with dense electronica, a subdued sonic sensibility and clean production wrangle sanity back from the brink in a considered second act.
But before the epiphany comes madness. Openers ‘John Doe’s Carnival of Error’ and ‘Rhesus Negative’ are slicked in Gabber idiocy, the former pedalling an infectious lullaby melody, the latter a tantrum of 808 hats and kitsch synths. The aggravated vocals (or near-vocals) on ‘Rhesus Negative’ shows Benjamin on visceral, muscular form. While they never steal focus, contributing to the maelstrom rather than distracting from it, these samples give a guttural nastiness and represent the early peak of his discontent. This is World Eater‘s ‘Dead Format’, with pointier teeth.
It’s a jarring opening by design; as if Benjamin had to exorcise his experimental tendencies to clear the process for cleaner material, and isn’t representative of World Eater as a whole. Things start to settle down on lead single, ‘Please’. Here, with enough space to breathe between polyrhythms, Benjamin’s instrumentation shimmers brightest. Its simple synth melody and growing intensity make it the most palatable (bordering mainstream catchy) track Blanck Mass has produced thus far.
There are a lot of flavours to take in over the tracklist, through the busy percussion of Aphex Twin to the pastel haze of Carpenter Brut, and while it isn’t always cohesive, it feels like an intentional decision. ‘Minnesota / Ees Fors / Naked’ continues a natural progression into more ambient territory, and surely represents a moment of clarity in the narrative simmering beneath. The end game is comparatively brisk, and by the time the mid-tempo ‘Hive Minds’ throbs to life it feels like Benjamin has said everything he needs to say.
World Eater searches for direction under its world-expunging concept, but lacks the focus that sex and biology afforded Dumb Flesh. Where it thrives is at the extremes, and the interplay between the experimental and the commercial remains an enduring treat on repeat listens.
Live: Rich Mix on April 27th