VENETIAN SNARES - Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding
Reviewed by Liam Singer (Pitchfork)
A great schism has gradually formed in the orthodox church of the glitch and IDM scene. Of one doctrine is the Matmos/Oval/Mouse on Mars school, based around clicks, squelches and skips, in which musicians struggle to merge our fleshy, imperfect world with that of bent circuitry and drum machines. On the other side are those such as Autechre and Richard Devine, who program crystal-clear computer assaults directly into the listener's brain, with no patience for human warmth or error. While the first are an elusive breed of rarefied souls with mild artistic aspirations, the second are the kids who once survived on Mortal Kombat, Jolt Cola, and Dune, all grown up and ready to overload your conscious mind. And if, at the moment, electro-acoustician Fennesz and musique-concrete practitioners The Books are at one end of the scale, Canada's Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) is providing the counterbalance.
Venetian Snares' slightly menacing persona, drill 'n' bass onslaughts, and use of pizzicato string melodies all add up to, yes, a strong affinity with godfather Aphex Twin. But aurally, Venetian Snares equally occupies the soundscape of Autechre, creating mathematical spaces of sleek synth tones that show no trace of human intervention. This is more apparent than ever on Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding, Venetian Snares' second LP release this year following The Chocolate Wheelchair Album. Focused and consistent, Cylinder Box accentuates Venetian Snares' most accessible side. It's relatively gentle and melodic, and takes few forays into the abstract. Here, he's created his most sterile universe-- the computer generated spaceships pictured on the insert belie an environment lacking in the real voices or acoustic interludes that have occasionally humanized his quantized breakbeats in the past.
The untouchable machinery of the album almost positions it as a piece of pure sound sculpture, but for the numerous complex beats and catchy melodies that keep it engaging. The drums veer away from the snare-heavy sound on which Funk built his reputation, to more metallic tones and sci-fi laser effects. The stereo panning in "Ion Divoy" is an especially memorable piece of production, and "Vida" is a standout track, ending in a cannon of pixelated bells and smooth syncopated pulsing. "LI2CO3" is another surprisingly pretty one, nearly Venetian Snares-lite. But there's still plenty of hardcore Funk present, and subtle pieces of scattered candy for the attentive listener. The album's fault lies in its lack of overall variation, which makes it nearly impossible to take in one sitting, despite the predictable ambient breaks.
Funk's other recent release, Horse and Goat is a six-song EP inspired by its own cover art, which features-- in an attempt to shock the burgeoning soccer mom IDM listenership-- a Trevor Brown painting of a naked little girl helplessly surrounded by mutated children's-turned-sex toys. It's to be assumed by the ringtone modulated child's voice in the title track, and the deconstructed speak 'n' spells elsewhere (also present on Cylinder Box) that Funk is trying to say something about society's perversion of childhood; then again, it's hard to read too much into the work of a man whose stated goal is to make music that's "fucked up." Regardless, Horse and Goat is both more abstract and varied than Cylinder Box, but also less appealing. There are excellent parts, for sure: The title track is catchy and freaky, while the atmospherics of "Lithium Twatting" echo the dense computerverses of dark ambient artist Kim Cascone. But Horse and Goat passes by without really leaving an impact, and as much as we'd all love to proudly display it on our mantles, it may not be worth the $2 per song a U.S. resident must put toward ownership.
By the time you finish reading this, Aaron Funk will have most likely released at least three more albums under two different pseudonyms. It's hard to say whether this level of output devalues the music, or stands as a testament to the man's work ethic (from interviews, it sounds as though he does little else). His position as among the most talented in his ultra-specialized field is unquestionable, his capacity for self-quality-control less so. But Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding is a good exercise in focused atmospherics, with beats that'll carry you along their lucid logic for as long as you're able to follow.
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- Remarc - Unreleased Dubs '94-'96
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