Funk Junction: the sounds of Aaron Funk as Venetian Snares
June 27, 2011 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Come on down to Funk Junction, we've got it all! Songs about cats, songs about orange things, songs about dolls, and songs about Canada! We have IDM, jungle, breakcore, and harsh noise! Do you like jazz and modern classical music? Great! We've got that, too, chopped up and re-arranged for easy digestion! A whole world of sound, created by Aaron Funk! A veritable city of Venetian Snares! And we have a biography, too, after the break (or you can skip the background, and go directly to the streaming music). Please note that kids should probably stay outside the Funk Junction, as it'll get loud, angry and obscene at times.

Perhaps it all started when he was in the womb and his mother played Tubular Bells, or perhaps when the young Aaron Funk was plunking on a piano at a young age. Or maybe it was the punk bands he was in as a kid that started Mr. Funk on a path towards music production. Somehow, that varied history lead to the early 1990s with Aaron Funk making experimental compositions with multiple ghetto blasters, by simultaneously playing various recorded sounds from different tape players. Aaron Funk would move on to computer-based production, but keeping the same aesthetic of sound mashing. In the process, Aaron found himself a name. One day while "writing a track with really fast snare rolls that sounded like scraping a stick across a grate or running a pencil down venetian blinds in a distracted classroom," he came up with the name Venetian Snares.

That name was first associated with some cassettes in the late 1990s. In 1999, the Canadian producer/DJ started his prolific release of music by commercial means, with a split CDr/Cassette (Fuck Canada/Fuck America) on CLFST (YT samples: Blister, Let the Dog Out, New Panties) and a 12" record on History of the Future (Greg Hates Car Culture) (YT samples: Personal Discourse, Boiled Angel, Point Blank; note:these tracks are played in Audio Surf [prev], so there are some extra chipper video game SFX in the otherwise brutal tracks).

The first Venetian Snares album on CD (printf("shiver in eternal darkness/n");) was released the next year, on Isolate Records. It was actually slower than prior work, but with the same spastic 7/4 time signature. (YT samples: C8 Diversity, Fire is the Devil, Molting). In that same year, Funk released his first overseas record (Salt EP) on Hecate's Zhark International label. To balance out these slower pieces, there is also the abusive EP (7 EP ) that is surprisingly rhythmic (YT: From the Snare, More Drug Less Love, More Drug And Bass, Number Seven).

2001 was when Venetian Snares really took off, with three albums, four EPs, and one single, across five labels. This was also first year that Venetian Snares signed to a larger label: Mike Paradinas' Planet Mu. The albums: Doll Doll Doll: a horror movie soundtrack, based around a theme of child murder (released on Hymen Records, streaming on MySpace); Songs About My Cats: really and truly songs about Aarons cats -- the songs "might not be very cohesive... but they are simply amazing in their intricate richness" (Planet Mu, streaming album); and the first album on Planet Mu was Making Orange Things, a collaboration with Speedranch, made over ICQ. In an interview (cache), Aaron said "[Speedranch] would scream into his computer then send the recordings to me and I would make tunes out of it." (YT samples: Pay Me for Sex, Molly's Reach Around, Viva Las Vegas). The other collaboration of 2001 was a split with Cex, part of the the Connected series on Klangkrieg (YT samples: Eleven Million Panda Bears In Bondage, How To Steal And Store An Ice Sculpted Bear , Ice Pirate Not Steeler).

In 2002, there were two new Venetian Snares albums, plus a compilation of left-over tracks, and two singles: Higgins Ultra Low Track Glue Funk Hits 1972 -- 2006, in which Funk "seems to be trying to mix every possible musical style with his own trademark drill'n'bass" (Planet Mu, streaming); Winter in the Belly of a Snake, "quite a cerebral release, [for fans] of schizo beat programming and off-kilter songcraft" (Planet Mu, streaming); and 2370894 (a compilation released as Vsnares), "a more playful, loose vibe ... amazingly cohesive, and far from your standard tossed-off amalgam of half-baked leftovers" (Planet Mu, streaming).

2003: another year, another two albums, and a new collaboration album, two more EPs and two more split records: Find Candace, a sequel to the 2001 album Doll, Doll, Doll, with "Venetian Snares further exploring the regions of his dark ambient side" (Hymen Records, streaming); The Chocolate Wheelchair Album has Venetian Snares reclaiming ownership of the dance floor (Planet Mu, streaming) [and the associated Planet Mu EP, Einstein-Rosen Bridge, streaming]; Aaron Funk and Rachael Kozak teamed up for Nymphomatriarch, receiving much attention about the source of their samples (simply put, "Venetian Snares and Hecate had sex, recorded it, and made an album .... though the compositional structures themselves seem to have gotten short shrift, the source material makes for some of the most surreal listening of recent memory") (Hymen Records, streaming).

2004 was slow, by Venetian Snares standards, with only one album, two EPs, and a single and a split single. The album was Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding, "[a] difficult listen from start to finish, [which] will reward those dusty interstices of the brain no pop tune will ever reach." (Planet Mu, streaming). The two singles were released on Doormouse's Addict Records), and are two very different releases. One was aggressive/abusive Skelechairs with Doormouse, the other was Moonglow/This Bitter Earth, two Venetian Snares takes on jazz tracks, with the b-side hinting at the sounds to come from Mr. Funk (streaming).

The juxtaposition of those two Addict Records releases were reflected in the sounds of 2005. Of the three albums released that year, two were in realms of sonic brutality, and the third was a blending of classical samples, modern classic styles, and Funk's high-speed breakbeats. Rossz Csillag Alatt Született was inspired by Funk's time in Hungary, with the album and track titles in Hungarian and samples from Eastern European composers (Planet Mu, streaming). On the other side are the albums Winnipeg Is a Frozen Shithole, in which Aaron shares his feelings for his home town, set to a gabber beat (Sublight Records, YT playlist 1, playlist 2); and Meathole, which is continually haunted by a "specter of unpleasant, transgressive malevolence" (Planet Mu, streaming). And for another tangent, 2005 was the year of the first acid-laced IDM side-project Last Step, with the You're a Nice Girl record (YT: You're a Nice Girl, Soda, Breakers Know, You're A Nice Girl Remix). The project was not associated with Funk at first, but the secret is out.

The next year saw another album, Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms (streaming) and a follow-up mini-album, Hospitality (streaming), both on Planet Mu. This work was an evolution beyond Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, bringing back in more of the chaos from past works, but based around more subtle structures. Another continuation of Rossz Csillag ... in 2006 was the EP 4 Adaptations Of Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, remixes by the Dutch breakcore producer, Bong-Ra, also released on Planet Mu (streaming).

In 2007, Aaron Funk released two albums, one as Venetian Snares, the other under his Last Step moniker. As Snares, he released My Downfall (Original Soundtrack), a soundtrack to his own demise of sorts. Intended as a follow-up to Rossz Csillag ..., but not a continuation - more intense and driven than the prior work. "I know this'll sound corny, but all you classical geeks who complain that there are no good modern composers - they're right here, they really are." (Planet Mu, streaming) As Last Step, Funk produced a self-titled album, created using original analogue equipment like the Roland 303, 606, 707 and Jupiter etc. The album included his first Last Step EP, plus new cuts (YT samples: Lives with Angels, Dramatix, Your Carrot Soup). Another semi-mysterious project was the loosely veiled Sabbath Dubs by Snares (Black Sabbath / Electric Funeral), Sampling Black Sabbath and an interview with Ozzy Osbourne.

Aaron changed directions again, with the 2008 Venetian Snares album Detrimentalist, using "nightmarish rave melodies" that call back to early 1990s jungle and hardcore, plus late 1990s video games and hip-hop samples (Planet Mu, streaming; bonus: Miss Balaton single from the album, streaming). The second Last Step was also released in 2008.
2008 - 1969 (Planet Mu) as Last Step, an album comprised of "a collection of joy-filled jumpy
acid manoeuvres, funky grooves and kitsch beats
" (Planet Mu, 6 streaming tracks).

2009 - Filth melds the recent complexity with the early Snares ultra-violence. You have been warned. "[In] keeping with the title, these excursions into the darkest depths of acid bring more distortion and spine-breaking beats to the genre than witnessed in a dozen Luke Vibert or Ceephax records." (Planet Mu, streaming). The follow-up EP, Horsey Noises, is a lot softer (relatively speaking); More acidic and bleepy than harsh and distorted (Planet Mu,

2010 was down-right sleepy, compared to the Snares peak. The one album released was
My So-Called Life, a very personal album that was released on Aaron's new label, Timesig (streaming). Aaron Funk also teamed up with former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and general musician (writer, performer, producer) John Frusciante as Speed Dealer Moms, and they released a self-titled EP (March_Three-3 / March_Four), also on his Timesig label.

And now we have 2011, in which there has been one EP released to date: Cubist Reggae, "basic loops and ideas taken from reggae but bent into strange angular sounds" (Planet Mu, streaming).

Bonus tidbits: Venetian Snares on TVTropes, and the official Venetian Snares website (which is pretty dull at the moment).
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
posted by bicyclefish at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2011

Feels like my wisdom teeth being removed, all over again.
posted by DonnyMac at 3:45 PM on June 27, 2011

Venetian Snares have a lot of feelings about Winnipeg.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:12 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

DonnyMac: Feels like my wisdom teeth being removed, all over again.

If the pain remains, you should move ahead to 2004 and Moonglow/This Bitter Earth, then try Rossz Csillag Alatt Született and My Downfall.

louche mustachio: Venetian Snares have a lot of feelings about Winnipeg.

Sometimes he's subtle, sometimes he isn't. In regards to Winnipeg, more of the latter.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:15 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding was the soundtrack to my trip to Japan in 2004. But I haven't really been able to keep up since then.
posted by memebake at 4:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

*weeps in the realization that he'll never actually get through this completely oustanding post*
posted by hippybear at 4:50 PM on June 27, 2011

...or pretty much any filthy light thief post ever...
posted by SomaSoda at 6:22 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ehrm, yes. I've had some short posts as of late. This one has been stewing for a while.

The general format for this post was to start with background in the first paragraph after the break, then rely on Discogs or Wikipedia for basic information on the album (the album title links), add a line or two from a review (usually in quotes), then the music at the end. Add in some links about the labels and collaborating artists, and you have the post.

Really, it's a chance to quickly describe all of Funk's albums, plus some EPs and singles, for people who equate Venetian Snares with pure ear abuse and brain damage. Those were the early days, and he's really diversified over the years, with some downright catchy gems tossed into the mix.

And then there are the fan-made videos: Dance Like You're Selling Nails is fun, and the Black Sabbath dub is amusing, in a sad sort of way. Then there's a video edit for Twelve, which samples the Sesame Street video and song. Ooh, and Szamár Madár, which is stunning (and a cheeky edit).

Bonus video: an interview with the self-proclaimed hillbilly, while in France.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was gonna ask "no last step" but then noticed this was "as venetian snares". Funny thing - I'm listening to My So Called Life right now. I had to pass on Cubist Reggae. I don't like Filth or a lot of his earlier work (noise just isn't my think). And I need Pink and Green and Horsey Noises.

The man is nothing if not prolific.

Also, there's a great clip he uploaded of his track "Vache" as it's made in Renoise. It's a bit blurry, but still cool to see the actual track being played in the software it was made :)

This is one of those "This is what mefi is for" posts!

OH - One time I was listening to Skelechairs and saw a person walking along the highway and chuckled to myself what would happen if I pulled up and asked if they need a lift while "CHAIRS MADE OF HUMAN SKELETONS" came blasting out of my car. LOL...
posted by symbioid at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and now I see the Last Step. Woops! (it gets lost in all the linkage!)
posted by symbioid at 9:29 PM on June 27, 2011

"Children's Limbo" from Find Candace still haunts me to this day (in a sort of good way, I think).
posted by LMGM at 10:45 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is a hell of a post. I love VSnares, and I haven't even heard of many of these records much less heard them.

Also, there's a great clip he uploaded of his track "Vache" as it's made in Renoise. It's a bit blurry, but still cool to see the actual track being played in the software it was made :)

That blew my mind the first time I saw it. Like, "he uses a friggin' tracker? Really?" How does he make all those crazy breakbeat cut-ups in a tracker? It must be horribly tedious, but if it works for him then it works.

And Nymphomatriarch was such a crazy but great idea that I'm surprised no one thought of before or has ripped off. I remember reading that microphones were, er, crammed in things.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:05 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Really, it's a chance to quickly describe all of Funk's albums, plus some EPs and singles, for people who equate Venetian Snares with pure ear abuse and brain damage.

Awesome, a huge post tailor-made just for me. He fell of my radar long ago, and even though I knew he had branched out from the noise, I didn't know where to start exploring so never bothered. I'm looking forward to digging in with the help of your amazing post. Thanks!
posted by p3t3 at 2:15 AM on June 28, 2011

How does he make all those crazy breakbeat cut-ups in a tracker? It must be horribly tedious,

A friend of mine who produces breakcore/jungle also uses tracker software. He claimed it was simply because he had already taken the time to learn trackers before there were other options. But after watching him actually working with the tracker, it does seem to fit the cut-up style somehow. Good for organizing sample groups and quickly triggering samples or mini-sequences without other sequencer functions getting in the way. I'm sure it takes a lot of getting used to and knowing your samples inside out, but trackers can be surprisingly quick and intuitive in the right hands.
posted by p3t3 at 2:49 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

So here is my Venetian Snares story:

I spent six months working the overnight (8pm-8am) shift at a sex shop in the West Village. Blah blah city that never sleeps blah blah prime location, but after about 4AM, the place was just dead. Nothing to do except read the numerous get-rich-quick caliber sex therapy books and make sure all the floor models had batteries in them. Fortunately, this also meant that we could turn off the Top 40 radio we've had to listen to since shift start. Especially because during prime-time it was just the same twenty minutes of music and forty minutes of commercials on loop.

Anyway, it was just me and the other night manager -- whose favorite bands were, wait for it, Cannibal Corpse and Venetian Snares -- enjoying the silence when he got the bright idea to jack his iPod into the store's hear-it-out-in-the-street sound system and blast it. And clearly if you're going to blast music out into the West Village street at four in the morning, it might as well be Fuck Canada/Fuck America.

And so we're just sitting around nodding our heads to some beat that really isn't in the music at all when who but the garbage man bursts in. And when I say "bursts in" I mean that literally: he hops in on one foot (and I don't mean like invalid-hop, I mean full-on stage-entrance hop) with jazz-hands and what I can only describe as jazz-face. And he just starts getting down for a good few minutes.

This story doesn't have much of an ending. Eventually, he stopped dancing, the other manager tossed him some of the, ahem, stimulants we carried -- at least in NYC retail, you always want the garbagemen on your side and we were not above pre-emptive bribing -- and he split.

But that really livened up the night, I tell you.
posted by griphus at 6:20 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I had all of the original singles and CD-Rs back in the day, and then sold them off on Ebay for a ridiculous amount many years ago. Good times!

If you want the bestest, my favourites are:
Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett (for a breathtaking reworking of classical samples)
Detrimentalist (for the throwback to 90s jungle)
and Find Candace
posted by Theta States at 6:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Renoise is amazingly good at chopping loops (though I haven't really used that feature, I've seen tutorials on how to chop the Amen and such)... It allows you to set breakpoints and loop-points I think and, IIRC, each sample of the wave form has a hex number associated w/it, so you can easily just tell it "go here" (and in renoise, you can hover your mouse over the region of the waveform you want to start at, and it will show the hex number of it's current location, I think). So I think it's relatively painless to tell it where you want the loop to trigger. You don't have to load and reload a ton of chopped up waves and samples, you just use the one and use little pointer hexes.

And renoise is amazing in so many other ways that I've never seen in a tracker and though I've not used many, renoise is the easiest most productive tracker I've ever used.
posted by symbioid at 6:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

griphus: "So here is my Venetian Snares story:

And so we're just sitting around nodding our heads to some beat that really isn't in the music at all when who but the garbage man bursts in. And when I say "bursts in" I mean that literally: he hops in on one foot (and I don't mean like invalid-hop, I mean full-on stage-entrance hop) with jazz-hands and what I can only describe as jazz-face. And he just starts getting down for a good few minutes.

Man, at first I thought "Garbage man" was a euphemism for Aaron Funk and was like Woah! Still a great story though! ;P
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on June 28, 2011

griphus, that is awesome.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 AM on June 28, 2011

Awesome!! I haven't kept up with the snares since Cavalcade..., but a few years back, when I had a basement and a nice (loud) stereo and I was having a bad/overwhelming day, I would turn it up to 11 and play Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. The first side of that album especially. For reasons I cannot explain, this calmed me down.

[...]for people who equate Venetian Snares with pure ear abuse and brain damage. Those were the early days, and he's really diversified over the years[...]

Truly. I was at a Thai restaurant with my mom around the time Moonglow came out and as I tuned into the beat simmering just outside my consciousness, I realized that it was playing on the house radio. I couldn't find a way to fully explain to my mother the jaw-dropping implications of Venetian Snares playing as background music in a restaurant, however. I'm gonna check out some of the new stuff when I get home; thanks for the memory jog.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:13 PM on June 28, 2011

nTeleKy, are you sure it was the Snares version, and not the original? I'm sure you'd notice the stutter-breaks, but I thought I'd ask.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:09 PM on June 28, 2011

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