Depending on your predilection, the name Venetian Snares will either induce terror or delight. Aaron Funk’s music has largely erred towards the aggressive and intense, but those fortunate enough to stumble upon his Last Step project have been privy to a broader tapestry of moods that eschew manic breakcore in favour of low-slung acidic grooves.
This latest album, Sleep, is reportedly the result of Funk working on the fringes of his own consciousness at the time when all he really wants to do is have a kip. He wouldn’t be the first artist to take this approach; in interviews fellow noise-botherer Richard D. James long extolled the virtues of sleep-deprivation as a means of reaching further into the subconscious for inspiration. Stylistically, the Last Step approach is one of vintage braindance. Warm analogue synths give off mournful and intricate melodies, while lashings of expressive acid complement them. The beats are all decidedly vintage too, and largely in a laconic house remit, although to tag this as house music seems a bit of a stretch.
What’s most pleasing about Sleep is the combination of the strange with the straight. There’s an unsettling disharmony at work in subtle time signature shifts and clashing keys, but the overall effect culminates in a pleasant, dreamy funk that soothes as it beguiles. There are more overtly outré moments, such as the sparse “My Off Days” with its half-considered beat and globulous lead synth, or the loping groove of “Cimicdae”, but they’re outnumbered by direct cuts such as “Lazy Acid 3”.
Never before would you have imagined you could mix a Venetian Snares track with a Trax classic, but there’s some serious potential here. Best of all from a DJ mentality, these are tracks with that otherworldly quality that most custom-built dance music fails to reach. The electronica school of thought has never concerned itself with dancefloor needs, but when the end result lends itself to the club it makes for a special kind of banger. All that aside, Sleep is, much like its predecessor 1976, just a thoroughly enjoyable listen to inventive and immediate electronic music. Compared to the aural ordeal that some of Funk’s other work can be (a culmination of one of his frenzied live sets being a good example), it’s a real joy to hear the man show off a few more strings in his bow. Even in the depths of his most malevolent music, it’s hard to deny the gift the man has for staggering complexities. Sleep is a shining exponent of that.
4. My Off Days
6. Lazy Acid 3