In a recent interview, Benjamin John Power, one half of the duo Fuck Buttons and a solo artist recording under the name Blanck Mass, described his latest full-length World Eater as “pure unadulterated countryside.”
It’s not the most unusual characterization for an album of electronic music, as that could be easily applied to the more pastoral moments by artists like The Orb and Boards of Canada. For Power’s work, it’s an almost radical statement considering the dense, futuristic soundscapes he cultivated on his self-titled 2011 release and the imposing grind of 2015’s Dumb Flesh.
His commentary about the record is really an attempt to shift the listener’s focus. By emphasizing the fact that World Eater was recorded in Power’s new home in a village outside Edinburgh, Scotland, he’s directing the attention towards those details that evoke his provincial surroundings.
In the case of the field recordings of a waterfall and bird song that slip into view at the start of “Minnesota/Eas Fors/Naked” or the samples of a church choir that are wended through “Rhesus Negative” and “Silent Treatment,” the connections to his rural hometown are laid bare. The rest of the album brings them to life through impressionism.
A sprightly melody cuts through the booming rhythms and scratchy clatter of “The Rat” like an ice cream truck trundling merrily through the streets of a bombed out city. The short staticy opening track “John Doe’s Carnival of Error” and the hazy closing section of the “Minnesota” triptych have the same kind of nostalgic bent of ‘70s era TV programs from the U.K. that have provided the aesthetic for Ghost Box Records. Even the songs that are easily ascribed to Power’s mindset like “Please” with its chopped up vocal samples and undulating flow or the glittering album closer “Hive Mind” feel like they were created with a lighter, more relaxed touch.
World Eater doesn’t offer that same level of calm, though. The mixture of gentility and dissonance is somehow more unsettling than if Power was to go full on into harsher, angrier territory. The balance that he maintains throughout is what makes the album work. It never veers too hard in one direction or the other, staying within a similar tingling middle ground where the best horror movies and thrill rides reside.