One inevitable criticism of the Venetian Snares catalogue is that with such high output, a lot of Aaron Funk’s work has begun to run together. And at times, it’s inarguably true. What really set Find Candace apart from Doll Doll Doll, or Chocolate Wheelchair apart from Higgins Ultra Low-Track Glue Funk Hits? Of course, Funk rehashes old approaches because there’s a clear demand. People wanted the next evil, scary Snares album and they got Find Candace. They demanded more fun, hard dancefloor breaks, and they received Chocolate Wheelchair. Personally, I’d been holding out for more subtler melody-driven work in the vein of Winter in the Belly of a Snake, and most recently I seem to be getting it.
Last summer, Funk unveiled Enormous Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding, an album with undeniable attention towards its sleek melody programming, but it lacked Winter’s variety and human touch, opting instead for 14 variations on the same track of sterile beeps and splintered percussion. Any selection taken alone sounded brilliant, but the entire album at once swiftly fades to an indistinguishable blur. Now, though the pinnacle of Winter is perhaps yet out of reach, Funk has made great strides towards reclaiming that territory, while at the same time forging ahead into new techniques.
Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett is the first truly orchestral Venetian Snares album. While there have always been sampled and synthesized strings and other instruments, nothing up to now revealed this level of orchestral depth and composition. Certainly, none of the instrumental performances on the album feel sampled, with melodies and counter-melodies building and progressing continuously. In fact, rumor holds that in order to record this album, Funk actually taught himself to play violin, recording and layer all of the parts himself. The result is his most natural, organic incarnation to date. Witness the slow build of album’s gorgeous centerpiece, “Hajnal” as it fluidly builds and leaps between themes over three and a half minutes. And then the drums drop.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Venetian Snares at all if not for the drums. Here, though they race and caper through dense flurries of digested amen-break fragments, those drums appear decidedly understated, at least compared to the precedent set by past albums. The de-emphasized rhythm work is most evident in the rather limited palette of sounds. Whereas Enormous Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding was awash in unique electronic cracks and snaps, almost all of the drums here are unadulterated bits of classic loops. Which is to say that they sound like real drums, possibly even played by a real drummer (though at the very least a drummer on heavy meth-amphetamines). Past fans expecting more cranium-splintering gabber kicks and white-hot shrapnel attack snare rolls may be dissappointed by the surprisingly restrained approach at work here, but it’s by no means a disadvantage. The more organic drum work seems better suited to the orchestration and leaves slightly more space to appreciate the melodic themes. And it’s still plenty harsh when it needs to be, such as the bold entrance of the album’s first percussion on the “Szerencsetlen”, which seems to serve as a sort of orchestral drum and bass overview. The balance is best showcased by the afore-mention “Hajnal”, where nearly eight minutes disappear effortlessly into the song’s expert progressions.
As a concept album - in this case a reflection on love and death via pigeons observed rising from the streets of an eastern European city - the watchword here is consistency rather than standout singles. Even so, notable moments abound, such as the mood-evoking spoken clips in several songs, sharp horn attacks in the album’s second half, and “Ongyilkos Vasarnap”, a track incorporating the vocals and deathly melancholy of old vocal jazz piece “Gloomy Sunday”. Fittingly, my roommate has informed me, the original was played during so many suicides in the first half of the last century that it was eventually banned in Germany. Of course. There is little better suited to the “evil” facet of the Venetian Snares sound than suicide-inducing samples, especially such ghosts from another era as these.
So at last, then, we have a new Venetian Snares album, which should serve to trip up detractors who claim that Aaron Funk has nothing unique left to show us. At the same time, though Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett is at times beautiful and harrowing, and rewards listeners who delve into it as an entire album, it also perhaps lacks the brilliant stand-out singles of some of the past works. But perhaps more importantly, the album offers glimpses of perhaps still untapped creativity lurking in the wings. And with the precedent of Venetian Snares’ output rate, we may not have to wait long to hear how that plays out in the next installment.
- Last Step - You're A Nice Girl
- Dolphin & The Teknoist - Soul Cannibal / Closing Down
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol V
- Kyler - Pur Cosy Tales
- Hellfish - One Man Sonic Attack Force
- Virus Syndicate - The Work-Related Illness
- Virus Syndicate - Slow Down
- Shitmat - The Lesser Spotted Burberry EP
- Bizzy B - Science EP Volumes III + IV
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol IV
- Exile - Pro Agonist
- Vex'd - Degenerate
- Vex'd - Gunman
- John B & Exile - Broken Language
- Mark One - One Way
- Venetian Snares & Bong-Ra - 4 Adaptations Of Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
- Venetian Snares - Rossz Csillag Alatt Született
- Ed Lawes - 14 Tracks/Pieces
- Eight Frozen Modules - DJ, Riddim & Source E.P.
- dDamage - Pressure
- Bizzy B - Science EP Vol III
- Hawerchuk - Camel Toe
- Shitmat - Full English Breakfest