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Blanck Mass releases record of colossal darkness

| Monday, April 10, 2017

Blanck Mass_WEBLAUREN HEBIG | The Observer

Here’s a record to judge by its cover: “World Eater,” the latest record by Blanck Mass (Benjamin John Power). The album art, which features a dog’s muzzle baring its teeth, is reminiscent of no wave band Swans’ brutal 1983 debut “Filth,” which features a pair of dentures on its cover. Perhaps the likeness is fortuitous, but other similarities are not so superficial. Though their approaches differ widely, both records are debilitating in their obscene and vicious energy, and overwhelming in their darkness.

Most notably, the two records tackle related themes. In the “World Eater” liner notes, Power elaborates on the artistic vision that guided the record’s production, which was largely a response to current events: “As humans, we are aware of our inner beast and should therefore be able to control it,” he writes. He goes on to argue that, in spite of our unique ability to reason, humans remain incapable of placating these selfish drives. “Recent global events have proven this. The human race is consuming itself.”

Though I trust Power’s earnestness, the same philosophy would be fitting in relation to virtually any Blanck Mass production. After all, narcissism, aggression and the desires of the flesh — well, these are Power’s thematic bread and butter. Just take a look at his 2015 record, “Dumb Flesh,” or his collaborative project with Andrew Hung, the noise-techno duet F— Buttons. For that matter, take a look at the back cover of the “World Eater” booklet, a thunderous fractal-like image with a small, four-word instruction in capital letters: “Listen at maximum volume.”

At maximum volume, the gripping evolution of the record’s disturbing introduction, “John Doe’s Carnival of Error,” is outright paralyzing. An uncanny music-box melody transports the listener to a haunted circus, the cyclical notes spinning slowly and lingering. The song swallows the listener in its abrasive techno, evocative of ecstatic, cocaine-fueled clowns.

In the track’s rave-powered, overdriven climax, Power does not merely channel Daniel Lopatin’s recent output as Oneohtrix Point Never, but far exceeds the corny anti-rave-music-but-still-rave-music sensibilities of Lopatin’s 2015 record “Garden of Delete.”

In the next track, the amusement park ride jolts in the opposite direction and brings us to “Rhesus Negative,” the album’s brightest highlight. The track blends together everything effective about Power’s style: loud and looming drones in the background, dystopian synths and vocal samples in the foreground and the swelling synergy of classical instrumentation and layers of harsh noise to balance it all. For better or worse, the Blanck Mass project has never quite matched Power’s own work as F— Buttons with collaborator Andrew Hung, but “Rhesus Negative” is about as close as he’s ever gotten.

Overall, however, it’s true that “World Eater” is primarily for fans of music along the electronic-to-industrial continuum, or others curious to explore beyond the Power and Hung duo’s three brilliant records. After all, tracks like “Please” and “Hive Mind” are well-executed but not particularly memorable, probably because the attempted sentimentalism is unfamiliar territory for Power. And while “The Rat” is excellent and “Silent Treatment” begins with the most exhilarating operatic flourishes you’ll ever hear, even these tracks are not particularly ambitious and linger over safe territory after the first few minutes.

Indeed, his difficulty with developing musical concepts over extended lengths is perhaps Power’s major weakness, especially given that most Blanck Mass tracks are at least seven minutes long. Fortunately, this seems to be Hung’s contribution to F— Buttons — at least in part. This is also why, though “World Eater” is an enjoyable record, listening to the duo’s output ultimately proves more rewarding instead.


Artist: Blanck Mass

Album: “World Eater”

Label: Sacred Bones Records

Favorite Track: “Rhesus Negative,” “Silent Treatment”

If you like: Ben Frost, Prurient, Oneohtrix Point Never

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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