traumatic harmony
the pataphysical study of randomized sound
Venetian Snares

In the April 2005 issue of Wire, Aaron Funk, aka Venetian Snares, told the following story: “For a period I would literally do crack all night and then after I came down I’d sleep a couple hours, get up and do music. I would twist the music until it gave me the same rush I got from the crack, that full euphoric adrenalin blast. Bit of a dangerous experiment but a couple of wicked 12"s came as a result. Those were strange days.” He wasn't talking about his most recent album, Rossz Csillag Alatt Született ("Born Under a Bad Moon" in Hungarian), but he might as well have, since it has a similar kind of effect. Each song on this, his ninth full-length, is paced with a sense of inevitability, an ebb and flow that can only be a recreation of that rush. Unlike in the past, where Funk would just use breakbeats and noise to create these effects, he turns this time to samples of early- to mid-20th century classical music, most prominantly sampling Elgar's cello concerto in "Szamár Madár," but there are touches of Bartók and other composers who I should be able to identify but can't. The track structure is perhaps a bit formulaic, starting with an orchestral sample, manipulating it a bit before adding in digital hardcore-style breakbeats and mixing the two together until they reach a glorious dénouement a few minutes in. However, the music never really gets old. Funk has a way of mixing things up sufficiently to keep interest going over the duration of the record. He also doesn't stick just with strings for his samples, bringing in the full power of the orchestra at points, shuffling in some well placed guitar plunks or xylophone licks. Most impressively timed is his cover of the "Hungarian Suicide Song," a track notorious for being the most depressing song ever, in which he uses samples of Billie Holliday singing the song over a texture reminiscent of Portishead's best moments.

What sets this apart from other electronic type albums that use strings as a base is the amount of respect Funk seems to have for the original source material. I'm very much of the mind that when someone uses a sample of anything, they should have a damn good reason for it, and they should use it as more than just window-dressing (see this review I did for dusted for a full diatribe). At no point does Funk use a sound just as a sound. When you hear the Elgar cello concerto emerge in "Szamár Madár," it takes a few seconds to realize what you're hearing, but when you do, you still get the full punch of the original piece which tempers the din that surrounds it and makes the track that much more bittersweet. And that is what makes this more than just a rehash of old Aphex Twin- or Alec Empire-style breakbeats. The classical music allows us to recontextualize this as the kind of merging of acoustic and electronic that Edgar Varèse could only dream of. 
This is probably my favorite Snares album ever.
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Location: Durham, NC

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Albums/Things of the Moment

Gal Costa - Gal
X - Los Angeles/Wild Gift
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
The Factums - The Sistrum
The Dark Knight
Jay Reatard - Matador 7"s
Sub Pop Singles Club III
Mississippi Records
Byard Lancaster

Radio Waves

lexicon devil
agony shorthand
keeping score at home
something I learned today
deadly tango
her jazz
strange reaction
god and a bottle in me
in case of mishaps
20 jazz funk greats
funky 16 corners
moon sash
mental archipelago
crud crud
just for a day
little hits
everything is fire

Odds and Sods
my old wprb playlists
my reviews on dusted
dusty groove

August 2002 / September 2002 / October 2002 / November 2002 / December 2002 / January 2003 / February 2003 / March 2003 / April 2003 / May 2003 / June 2003 / July 2003 / August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / September 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / July 2008 /
all posts before december 2004 are old wprb playlists. I wish I could say I've been blogging that long, but that's simply not the truth.

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