Because of his rapid pace in releasing albums, Venetian Snares is one of those artists that I got behind the curve on and simply decided to put off. Since the year 2000, the man known as Aaron Funk has released at least 6 full-length albums, as well as numerous singles and 7" discs. He's collaborated with Cex and Speedranch and others, and in the truly prolific year of 2002 dropped 3 full-length discs. After finally succumbing to all the spilled ink, I decided to make the dive and get the album that many have called his most mature to date.
Winter In The Belly Of A Snake is the third in the triad of albums that Funk released in 2002, and according to other pieces of releases that I've heard by him, it takes just about every different style that he's tried up to this point and lays it all down into an hourlong journey through 16 tracks of madness. In addition to some of his old styles (spastic drill and bass, noise, and even ambient) rearing their heads, he tries several new things with the disc as well, including a couple different vocal tracks, and even a fairly straight-on cover (Danzig's "She" no less).
If you're one of those people (like me up until a little while back) who haven't heard Venetian Snares yet, imagine an evil doppleganger of Squarepusher, or a slightly more demented version of the more recent work by Mike Paradinas (aka Mu-Ziq, aka the head honcho of Planet Mu Records), in which playfullness is mostly replaced by abrasiveness. None of these things are a bad thing, mind you, but you shouldn't expect to go into this album and come out the other side with a warm fuzzy feeling.
The disc opens with the track "Dad," and one of Funks almost trademark blistering programming workouts. Metallic chirps and thunks spray in all directions while his heavily processed vocals haunt with an 'ode' to his father. Ocassionally, an almost playful melody comes in alongside piano sprinklings, but given the setting of the song, they fall into the creepy category rather than the light one. "Stairs Song" follows the track with another simple melody, and again the track piles on absolutely frantic programming. In fact, on the album as a whole, the rhythm programming is some of the best I've heard in a long time. Tracks like "Tattoo" and "In Quod" spit out so many different pieces in the course of their running time that it's simply hard to wrap your head around them in a couple listens. Offsetting these tracks are short tracks of ambient noise, such as "Yes Love, My Soul Is Black," and "Earth."
Despite all the wicked programming and unique sounds on the release, I still have trouble pulling much away from the album after listening to it many a times. While the programming is there, most of the album is so cold that it's simply hard for me to form much of an attachment to it. Other artists have pulled together both amazing programming and great songcraft into the same album (as on Aphex Twin's Richard D. James Album or Mu-Ziq's vastly underrated Lunatic Harness), and the result is something I go back to again and again. Even with the human touches that Funk has injected into this new release, it still feels like I'm being kept at arms length, and while I can appreciate the album for technique and production (much like my problem with some of the newest Autechre material), I find it doesn't really resonate with me on a deep level. That said, this is still quite a cerebral release. Fans of schizo beat programming and off-kilter songcraft will no doubt have a new saviour here, but I'll keep an eye out, as I have a feeling we've just seen the beginning of him.