Reviewed by Dan Lett (Pitchfork)
Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) claims his first musical experience was attending an in utero Mike Oldfield session courtesy of his pregnant mother. Funk has since revisited his sonic initiation in the womb with the eponymous Nymphomatriarch release, sourced entirely from mid-coitus, "internal" samples of he and partner Rachael Kozak (aka Hecate). That he describes himself as a combination of Lee Perry, Stockhausen, and contemporary drum-n-bass pioneer Squarepusher-- all subject to "gasoline enemas"-- may seem both egocentric and anally preoccupied enough to encourage further Freudian character analysis.
But however (un)justified you judge his self-opinion to be, Funk is currently producing some of the most challenging compositions on electronica veteran Mike "µ-Ziq" Paradinas' Planet Mu label. His frantic production schedule has seen him messily hemorrhaging at least two full-lengths of chaotic, genre-devouring work each year-- with the emphasis often on shock and sensation. And this year's The Chocolate Wheelchair Album won't likely disappoint his audience, containing variations on the crazy-paving soundscapes with which Funk has become synonymous. But: Does it suggest enough of a progression to substantiate Funk's lofty allusions to the pioneers mentioned above?
Rumor has it that Funk's original title for this album was The Stupid Chocolate Wheelchair Album, an idea quashed by a disapproving Paradinas. That didn't stop Funk taking a black marker to pre-release copies distributed at promotional gigs last year and "correcting" the tamed album title. You see, Funk does whatever the hell he wants-- a philosophy that thrives unchecked in the studio. Ever since the gorgeous fusion of opera, eruptive break beats, and a cappella melodic phrasing on "Dance Like You're Selling Nails" (from 2002's Higgins Ultra Low Track Glue Funk Hits 1972-2006), Venetian Snares has deserved some indulgence of his attention-seeking musical tendencies. And if this album fails to capture the originality of his best work, it at least captures a similar spirit.
"Einstein-Rosen Bridge" vibrates with funky guitars channeled into revisionist techno mockery set to trademark hectic beats. The overall effect is surging and rampant; Funk camps it up with throwaway vocal samples and something akin to game-show style orchestral hits. This track obliterates the immediately forgettable glitch noodling of "Langside", a piece made obsolete by Funk's own superior past efforts in this area. "Handthrow" starts out, worryingly enough, like an early jungle track, merely accelerated and panned about with nothing resembling innovation; its distortion-happy, shoot-'em-up descent into monotonous snare button-hammering isn't much better, either.
Despite The Chocolate Wheelchair Album's intriguingly perverse wackiness, a weakness begins to emerge as it plays. Funk has always flitted between styles, making each track a microcosm of multiple genres. The riotous pastiche that has served Funk so well in the past here threatens to deaden one's senses to the individual moments of inspiration. When psychotic mood swings and jaw-dropping reversals are this ubiquitous, they lose their ability to shock, and, criminally, they almost lull. Funk packs so much processed pandemonium into each song that you can't help thinking that a dozen or more of those rapid-fire ideas could have been set aside and nurtured over their own four minutes.
Still, even within this dense barrage of skewered noise, there lies a handful of intriguing moments to snap listeners to attention: Standout tracks "Herbie Goes Ballistic" and "Marty's Tardis"-- the latter featuringan affectionate reworking of the Doctor Who theme-- see ideas and form presented in equal measure. And if nothing else, the record is more accessible than 2001's boisterous Songs About My Cat. Of course, none of this changes that notion that Funk is suffering the plight of many an electronic composer-- a limitless availability of sonic tools and the fetishistic desire to push each one to the limit. Like an electronic magpie, Funk surrounds himself with all that glisters. Thankfully, half the time he produces gold.
- Shitmat - Full English Breakfest Vol.3
- Shitmat - Full English Breakfest Vol.1
- Various - The Sacred Symbols Of Mu
- Venetian Snares - Meathole
- Luke Vibert - Lover's Acid
- Frog Pocket - Gonglot
- Phthalocyanine - No One Said You Didn't
- Various - Amµnition
- Electronic Music Composer - Abandon Music
- The Gasman - The Grand Electric Palace Of Variety
- Chevron - Everything's Exactly The Same
- Julian Fane - Special Forces
- Kid Spatula - Meast
- Shitmat - Killababylonkutz
- Venetian Snares - Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding
- Datach'i - Mmale And Ffemale
- edIT - Crying Over Pros For No Reason
- Remarc - Unreleased Dubs '94-'96
- Remarc - Sound Murderer
- Urban Myth & Steve Beresford - Live At The Friends Meeting House
- dDamage - Radio Ape
- OOO - Upon Cycles
- Venetian Snares - The Chocolate Wheelchair Album
- The Gasman - Remedial