Friday, November 13, 2009

#45. Venetian Snares - Rossz csillag alatt született (Planet Mu, 2005)

I like it when an artist surprises me. I've probably said that before, but if it bears repeating anywhere it would have to be here. See, I never really like Venetian Snares before this, really wasn't into the whole breakcore genre at all if you must know. I understood what it was trying to accomplish but it never came across as anything other than annoying, especially in larger doses. To put it bluntly I could never see myself listening to a full album of manic beats and harsh synths without breaking it up into 10 minute segments and digesting it over time. That said, there was the rare occasion prior to Rossz csillag alatt született that Aaron Funk made something worth hearing. I know that "Find Candace" struck me as a cut above the rest of his output, and his 7" re-inventions of "Moonglow" and "This Bitter Earth" gave me the idea that there could be much more to breakcore than the overly simplistic view I'd taken of it. I still didn't expect the shock of Rossz csillag alatt született. Nothing really could have prepared me for the way that it slapped me across the face and refused to let me ignore it .

It starts off so unassumingly, a minute of somber strings without a hint of the usual barrage of blastbeats and harsh noise. You almost think that Funk has gotten disillusioned with the genre he helped pioneer, and maybe he has. Then "Szerencscétlen" arrives and it knocks you for a loop. Still anchored by a string pattern that almost sounds like it was sampled from one of the Carl Stalling Project albums but was actually performed by Funk himself - he learned to play the various stringed instruments and any others that pop up later prior to recording the album - but soon gives way to a bit of vintage beat-fuckery. It's the way the two elements are synthesized that gives it its jaw-drop factor; the near-classical string section doesn't seem like it's anywhere near as far removed from the frenetic beats as it should be, the two parts are operating together like they were meant to be. It's seriously one of the most sonically arresting things I've come across this decade, the marriage of complete opposites working so much better in tandem than they would on their own.

The key is that it doesn't trade on that sort of synthesis across the board here. Sure most of the highlights, especially "Màsodik galamb" and "Hajnal," are cut from the same cloth, but there's plenty of instances where the brerakbeat element is removed completely from the picture and the results are just as entrancing. "Öngyilkos vasárnap" has only a light smattering of rather restrained beats as Funk wraps a glorious string section around samples of Billie Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday," and "Felbomlasztott mentőkocsi" (translates to "Disintegrated Ambulance" and that's exactly what it sounds like) is pure modern classical, almost sounding like something that Kronos Quartet would knock out in a particularly inspired moment. Sure the best moments are still rooted in the synthesis of Funk's usual MO and this new classical approach, but even when the beats are nonexistent it almost hits the same heights. Even the songs within that sphere aren't all of a piece with each other; "Hajnal" is almost jazzy before the beats come in, and "Màsodik galamb" is absolutely insane, probably the single best song that Funk has composed here with its hellish atmosphere and monstrous build and release.

It's this kind of surprise that I like the best; the fact that in spite of loving this album for almost 5 full years now it still manages to get better and better each time I hear it. Over the course of 2005 I remember that it went from a top 30 contender to a top 10 shoo-in over a matter of months, and this last pass has given it a secure place in my top 5 for the year. It's not that the other albums have lost their lustre, just that each new listen makes the whole record seem that much more huge and enveloping. It makes me forget that he's gotten progressively diminishing returns from this sound with each release in this vein - My Downfall specifically - and makes me curious as to whether this level of creativity was in him all along and I just couldn't see it through the haze of breaks. It's the best kind of grower is what it boils down to, and it keeps getting better

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