Ted Hughes famously said that Sylvia Plath would write, “with thesaurus in hand.” It’s a quote that’s held up by some as an example of an underlying desire to undermine his wife’s work. Motivation aside, however, the idea of a literary genius having a practical approach to their craft doesn’t dull the art for me. Just like hours of diligent practice are as valid as God-given talent, the thesaurus, in my opinion, is a useful and perfectly legitimate tool.
Now I’m no literary genius, but when I write about Blanck Mass I find myself grasping for synonyms more than ever. Instrumental music is always more of a challenge for a music critic more used to assessing verses and choruses filled with loss and desire but the work of Benjamin John Power, and that of his Fuck Buttons co-conspirator Andrew Hung, confounds me more thoroughly than anything else. Genre labels come up short – Blanck Mass’s music is more than noise, something other than post-rock, and drone certainly doesn’t do it justice – so that electronic, in all its vagueness, is the most authentic I can muster. It is visceral (synonyms: explosive, impassioned) and it is punishing (severe, relentless), and yet it is much more than Thesaurus.com’s noble attempts at adding colour to my descriptions.
Another word often tossed around when music critics review electronic music which is vaguely foreboding – ie, that which doesn’t contain an immediately uplifting and whistleable melody – is dystopian. In this case, however, it rings true. Power’s music, and none more so than this album, conjures up a world of totalitarianism, degradation and paranoia. Where previous album ‘Dumb Flesh’ addressed the fragility of the human body and its inevitable eventual decay, ‘World Eater’ explores the brain. It is the sound of our psychological inner beast, the, “highly territorial and violent,” spirit, as Power puts it, that lurks within each of us. In a world which looks set to build more walls than bridges, it is timely.
From the eeriness of opener ‘John Doe’s Carnival of Error,’ with its loops of deconstructed circus music, through to the gorgeous ‘Hive Mind, ’ a viscous, glittering slice of neo-hip hop that recalls early Balam Acab in its childlike wonder, ‘World Eater’ is a triumph. The jewel in its crown, though, is the superb ‘Rhesus Negative,’ an onslaught of percussive and vocal cut-ups that takes Boards of Canada’s Telephasic Workshop into a much more aggressive space.
Not only a confirmation that the palette of Power’s talents is widening, it’s probably the best song about a blood type that you’ll hear this year.