Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Blanck Mass - World Eater Review

By nature, Electronic music has never been capable of primal thought. Or so, that was the general perception with many questioning, as the rise of the genre took forth in the 1980's, how music created mechanically could relate to humans and their organic brain matter. Any genre with a human touch could be capable of producing music that had emotional ties, even if the artist never intended it do to so. Vocals surely help humans associate, as do lyrics, but can something solely composed on a computer achieve the same feat? If the slew of artists we've seen in recent years tackling this idea is any indication; yes. From Burial to Clark to Tim Hecker, Electronic music can harbor pressing feelings and strong emotional ties, despite the fact that its been created by an inanimate object. Blanck Mass, one half of Fuck Buttons, aims to reach that treasured plateau. I mean, just look at his album covers. 2015's Dumb Flesh still makes me feel uneasy, with skin of unknown origin pressed up against one another. This year's World Eater is no different, finding the snarling teeth of a rabid dog invading our comfort zone. Through aggressive Electro-Industrial, Blanck Mass succeeds in overwhelming our flesh and blood with tightly-wound, mechanical beasts.

A classic case of art reflecting itself, the synopsis of World Eater actually bears striking resemblance to a video game released mere days before it. Horizon Zero Dawn has consumed much of my free time in recent days. More than being thoroughly entertaining, the game foretells a story of a post-apocalyptic earth following the sentient takeover of robotic machines meant to service humans. It's a sensational example of how the organic and the mechanical can coexist, or not, in the same universe. Just like Horizon, the power-driven automation that drives World Eater feels alive, all thanks to the human ability to pull harmony, tone, breath, and sensation out of calculated dissonance. Similar to Dumb Flesh, World Eater begins during a hazy recollection. A prelude of sorts. In 2015, it was 'Loam,' caught in a loop of reversed vocals, similar to Vaporwave. Here, it's the tip-toeing melody of a machine combusting on 'John Doe's Carnival Of Error.' This gives way to 'Rhesus Negative.' A nine-minute expedition into cathartic pandemonium. It sounds like the uprising of a million broken war machines. Not coincidentally, 'Rhesus Negative,' and a few other cuts here, draw comparisons to the 1990's era of ADD-riddled, 8-bit video game music, a la Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein.

While 'Rhesus Negative,' rightfully so, is going to garner a lot of attention with how abrasive and unrelenting it is, the bulk of other tracks here succeed in their own right by finding a balance between the serene and the savage. Even though Post-Industrial isn't too welcoming of a genre, I'd feel safe in assuming most anyone with a knack for production can find something of value here. Take 'The Rat,' World Eater's simplest track. While a flurry of synths, drums, and looping mechanics crash atop one another, the foundation on which it exists isn't entirely removed from Industrial Hip-Hop. Death Grips comes to mind, and more precisely their work on Fashion Week. Their instrumental tape was flawed from the start thanks to the absence of MC Ride, a crucial facet of the group's image, but similar styles work here because, for Blanck Mass, the production is the primary target. The two tracks surrounding 'The Rat,' 'Please' and 'Silent Treatment,' find Blanck Mass interweaving other sub-genres of Electronic music quite effortlessly. They're deliberately too chopped to be deciphered, but on both cuts ghostly vocals bring life to the dilapidated. They're quite odd because the voices frequently return, making it seem as if they're demented remixes of Alternative R&B tracks. The production styles of Flume even come into play on 'Please.'

From his origins as part of Fuck Buttons, an Electronic duo that reveled in the potential ecstasy of Drone and Noise, Blanck Mass subscribes to the idea of lengthy, high-octane voyages into the unknown. Their debut Street Horrrsing, a difficult album to say the least, tested the limits of restraint by pushing claustrophobic noise to an impenetrable crescendo. It wasn't until 2009's Tarot Sport where the duo decided to incorporate melody to the masses, resulting in some truly rapturous moments where dissonance and harmony united. Thankfully, in the eight years since that project, Blanck Mass has evolved despite remaining nestled in the endless ideas of Progressive Electronic. The general notion of long songs are still here, as six of the seven eclipse six minutes, but rather than steadily build to euphoric release, Blanck Mass moves about a concentrated topic till its exhaustion. Personally, I do find some of these tracks to be needlessly lengthy. It's frustrating, because it's almost always by a minute or two. Like 'The Rat' or 'Rhesus Negative,' they seem determined to overstay their welcome. At times they're even antagonistic in their refusal to proceed.

The same's mildly applicable to the closer 'Hive Mind,' but with breathtaking production swooping around every bend, the eight-plus minutes seem justified, if not premature in its duration. At the very least, it feels complete and properly stuffed. 'Hive Mind' largely focuses on two passages, both vocally-accompanied, eventually coming together during multiple monumental apexes. One side is hushed and distorted, the other, somehow, sounds like it came from The Go Team!, believe it or not. It's the most cognizant track, charting course for existential release after the barren, inquisitive trilogy that came before lingered in the shadows of a melting factory with mechanics short-circuiting. That's the sound of the first two movements, but not the third, which makes 'Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked' World Eater's most diverse track. While the majority shivers under the weight of roaring Ambient, 'Naked' provides an unexpected shift into Vaporwave. It's not curiosity tasting a new genre either, 'Naked' fully embraces the nostalgia-induced fervor with aquatic drums slinked beneath layers of rubble. Conceptually, it doesn't fit World Eater's biting assault, but 'Naked' proves Blanck Mass as an elite producer capable of multiple styles. With World Eater, an album packed to the brim with musical grandeur, that much is evident.


  1. Why would you give this 3.5/5 stars on RYM but on your blog it's an 8.3/10? Those scores don't match up.

    1. It's how my rating system works. What's considered average on this blog is a 7/10ish, therefore over there that gets the average score of 2.5. Every five points it goes up .5, so a 7.5-8 is a 3 and a 8-8.5 is a 3.5, hence the rating.