For his two previous releases, producer, and singer/songwriter Daniel Lanois has been inching away from the initial ideas of ambient music. In 2014, he began incorporating harder elements into instrumental work on Flesh and Machine, making something that bordered on musique concrète. Two years later, he teamed up with Rocco DeLuca to conjure sounds even more abstract and anchorless on Goodbye to Language. What would be the next logical step? That question is about as open-ended as the music itself, and everyone’s naturally going to have their own ideas of where he should go from here.
His collaboration with Aaron Funk, also known as Venetian Snares, is a paradox. On the one hand, Venetian Snares’s breakbeat/glitch approach means that a rhythmic foundation is going to come with the package. On the other hand, Funk’s brand of glitch is all over the place. Their joint album, plainly titled Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois, is an artistic step taken in simultaneously opposite directions if such a thing were possible. Lanois is here to soothe you, while Funk is here to stimulate you. Do the two mesh?
Not surprisingly, your opinion will hinge on what you think of Venetian Snares. If you think Funk’s Last Step moniker is about as strange as he should allow himself to become or if you are a fan of Lanois albums like Shine, this album is going to be difficult for you. Lanois remains a deft pedal steel player, and his ability to weave his instrument into Eno-esque tapestries has become second nature to him. But as the billowing chords begin to hover over the pointillist synthesizer noises, you can’t help but wonder who is playing off of who — or if anybody is playing off of anybody. For all I know, they could be Beefhearting their way through the whole thing. With only eight tracks spanning 33 minutes, you really do need to press play again to get a first impression.
Your ear will adjust, though. Even if Lanois and Funk are seemingly working towards opposite ends, the sonic marriage of the two becomes easier to process with each listening. If you are new to breakbeat, Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois is more likely to plant a glitch seed in your brain rather than convert you overnight. The one track that finds Venetian Snares at his most intense is tucked away in the second half. On “Mothors Pressroll P131”, it sounds as if he is cramming the available space with every sound and every beat available on his synthesizer.
He tempers this extreme approach by cooling things down to industrial scrapes on “Bernard Revisit P81” and letting Lanois doing most of the “talking” on the closing number “Ophelius 1stP118”. The schizophrenic “Night MXCMPV1 P74” would have made a fine conclusion to the album too, but there’s something to be said for falling action after overloading your earbuds with some of the most hyperactive IDM in existence.
Again, do they two entities mesh? The simplest answer is ‘yes,’ but you need to work for it if you are coming it this album purely from the Lanois angle. This work is worth the effort because very few albums like Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois are in existence. Cherish the formula before it becomes saturated.