Music

Blanck Mass: World Eater

Blanck Mass's World Eater is a humungous, terrifying slab of electronic noise.


Blanck Mass

World Eater

Label: Sacred Bones
Release Date: 2017-03-03
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Blanck Mass's World Eater is a party record for the apocalypse

Blanck Mass’s new album World Eater is gargantuan as each song feels like it could soundtrack a warship floating in the sky. The size and scale of the compositions here shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that Blanck Mass is the solo recording project of Benjamin John Power, who alternately makes music with Andrew Hung under the name Fuck Buttons. Like Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass makes music in which everything is mixed and pitched into extremity. And while there are shifts in pace, tone, and dynamic in this music, it’s really only a relative change. At its calmest, World Eater is as intense as someone like Trent Reznor ever got. Its most danceable tracks hit harder than anything produced by Skrillex. And yet it contains a connection to a pastoral beauty that might be a result from Power’s recent move to a village outside Edinburgh, Scotland.

The opening track, “John Doe’s Carnival of Error” eases us in with a repetitive chiming figure before rapidly accelerating into a fast four-on-the-floor crescendo where chopped vocals and synths cascade before abruptly stop before reaching a proper release. “John Doe’s” surprise ending is representative for World Eater which, both in inspiration and content, is meant to reflect the anger, violence, confusion, and frustration of our time. Despite its intensity, there’s always a sense of control that Power infuses into the music; we aren’t hearing an artist or his work go off the rails here. Instead, Power streamlines these conflicting and painful feelings into something much more manageable and cathartic. It’s not so much a documentation of a process, but rather a complete thought from a man who clearly considers his material.

The second track, “Rhesus Negative”, is one of the album’s high points. The double-time percussion8 wouldn’t be out of place on a death metal record, and its screaming vocal snippets sound like they're lifted from the Locust. But Power counteracts these elements with tinkling melodic passages that are reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s soundtrack work in their spectral whimsy. “Please” runs Burial’s dubstep through Power’s practice, but, as engaging as the song can be for its majority, it ultimately falters due to its repetition, which feels more redundant than emotive. Thankfully, it’s the only lacking track on the album.

Much stronger is “The Rat” which sounds like a powerful Nine Inch Nails instrumental due to its catchy melody and heavy, thudding drums that are strip-mined from Kanye's “Black Skinhead". Another highpoint is “Silent Treatment”, which might be Power’s most expressive use of vocal samples on the entire record -- the main recurring element being a choral sample that calls to mind Art of Noise’s class “Moments in Love”. Power’s song structure and arrangement here are impeccable: at its peak, the song uses repeating arpeggios, accenting synth stabs, and other vocal samples of “ugh” and “ah” as percussion. It’s also the album’s dreamiest song -- the apex of violence and beauty meeting.

Power’s triptych “Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked” moves from noisy, squelching synths to field recordings of a waterfall and, finally, a muffled piece of pop with gated drum reverb that makes it seem like a forgotten tune from decades ago. As a whole, it’s a fascinating piece, and a great palette cleanser for the album-closing “Hive Mind”, which reignites the melodic power of “Silent Treatment.” It’s probably the album’s most dancefloor-ready track with an undulating bass line and vocal warping, which Power deftly guides with his rippling synths till the song hits a powerful crescendo with cut-up screeching vocals.

By the album’s end, the listener is altered from continued exposure to Power’s work -- everything else you’ll hear soon after will sound like children’s music. While there are thrills to be had with the sheer rush of the powerful music contained here, the greater sense of conflict that Power documents in his outward looking opus is the real success of the record.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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