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Venetian Snares - Traditional Synthesizer Music [TIMESIG - 2016]

Aaron Funk is something of a veteran of front line electronic music by now. His most well known project Venetian Snares has continued to put out a steady stream of quality releases ever since the high watermark of critical acclaim reached in 2005 with Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. That record's heady mix of hyper-speed jungle rhythms and cut-up classical music has only occasionally been re-visited since, mostly successfully on My Downfall from 2007. As well as with his numerous other monikers Funk's recent output with Venetian Snares has diversified considerably, notably on Cubist Reggae from 2011, Fool the Detector from the following year which saw Funk introduce his own voice into the Snares sound and 2014's mammoth My Love is a Bulldozer which revealed some of his most complex and ambitious arrangements to date. Now he's taking his signature programming skills in another direction by producing an album made entirely from one modular synth.

Funk's sense of humour is evident in the title as although the hulking wall of Eurorack modules he deploys on Traditional Synthesizer Music harks back to the heyday of knob twiddling in the 1970s I doubt Keith Emerson ever thought of putting his equipment though its paces quite like this. All the songs are recorded in one take with no overdubs thus making the record something of a live document, although the venue was Funk's Winnipeg home. There are videos on Youtube showing Funk recording some versions of these songs, buzzing about the racks mounted floor to ceiling, fag in mouth, cables everywhere. This is however no indulgent record of boffin bleeps. Funk's signature hyperactive approach to composition and rhythm is obvious from the first minutes of Dreamt Person v3 with its detuned arpeggiators and explosions of tone colour. Things really get going with Everything about you is Special as Funk's entirely synthesized drum set skitters around a lovely melodic lead pad. The claps, high hats and kicks may all be synthesized but the complexity of the tumbling jungle beats and breaks are unmistakably Venetian Snares.

The record continues Funk's recent trend of slowing the BPM down a bit to allow his crafted melodies space to breath. This is particularly welcome here as the range and unique sound of each patch he creates on the synth is well worth hearing. Bear in mind the machine he's using has no pre-sets and once the patch is taken apart it's practically impossible to re-create. On Magnificent Stumble v2 the melodies combine in strange and unpredictable ways, interrupting each other, competing for attention around waves (and they do often come in waves) of kicks and hats. Can't vote for Yourself v1 features some nice filter resonance around its baseline while You and Shayna v1 is another melodic highlight juxtaposing lightning speed distorted rims between spacey pads and another fat analogue baseline.

There are plenty of weird effects and sci-fi atmospheres here if that's what you look for in your synth records. But even when he set's the dial for the Forbidden Planet as he does on She Married a Chess Computer in the End it's the arrangement of the different patches and the always present rhythm section that drives the song on. The sounds never gets bogged down in knob twiddling for the sake of showing off as Funk's tendency towards exhilarating breaks gives him something a little different compared to how these machines tend to be used. Right up to the last few twitches of album closer Paganism Ratchets the bass and glitchy rhythms are centre stage and while you'd be hard pushed to dance to any of this Funk has achieved the not inconsiderable feat of taking a highly elite instrument that could well have produced a record of indulgent dross and instead made something rather great and often beautiful. Well played crazy Canadian man.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Duncan Simpson
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