Music

Experimental Electronic Artist Venetian Snares' 'Greg Hates Car Culture' Turns 20

Greg Hates Car Culture ultimately stands out for more than being Venetian Snares' first vinyl release; it's the sound of a vital artist throwing ideas on a wall and seeing what stuck.

Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary)
Venetian Snares

Planet Mu

6 December 2019

As a critic, one has to remember not to let the artist set the parameters of what you're allowed to say about their work, but still, some artists can get inside your head with a few choice retorts. In a 2015 interview for FACT, Aaron Funk (a.k.a. Venetian Snares) rails against how people write and define his work. Funk says, "I love reviews where they just describe the sound in the tune. Why?! Just play the fucking song at that point." Later on, he adds, "They're listening for how it can be compatible with their lives…Everything must be designed and delivered specifically for you. Music must adhere to your idea of what it should be, not the artist, right?"

These are common critiques of the music review, but what makes Funk's comments interesting is his status as a wholly unique figure bound to be remembered in conjunction with subgenre movements, IDM/Planet Mu oral histories, and Aphex Twin comparisons. The noted recluse has to be part of a bigger picture because it's convenient for us to label artists alongside known entities. It can admittedly grow tiresome for musicians, especially for someone like Funk, who prides himself on working in a vacuum and who started naturally making frenzied "electronic music" by banging on garbage bins for recordings on his boombox.

The 20th-anniversary reissue of Venetian Snares' first vinyl release Greg Hates Car Culture is an opportunity to focus on Funk's artistic approach, though the narrative surrounding the 12" EP is probably the main reason for its professional reissue treatment. Greg Hates Car Culture made the rounds through a label in Minneapolis – about a seven-hour car trip from Funk's home in Winnipeg. Mike Paradinas (AKA μ-Ziq, founder of Planet Mu) heard the record and signed him to the growing experimental electronic label. From there, Venetian Snares' prolific output helped define the Planet Mu aesthetic and was a defining figure in IDM's embrace of jungle and frantic drum patterns. According to Discogs, the original vinyl of Greg Hates Car Culture – supposedly only 500 copies were made – has sold for as high as $90 with a median of $65.72.

At Greg Hates Car Culture's best, the price for an original copy is more than justified. The opener "Personal Discourse" begins with a phone call Funk made to a dominatrix, immediately settling you into the comical depravity and underground nature of these recordings. When the drums kick in, though, they still manage to shock through their abrasive complexity. A menacing synth line runs through much of the track, maybe to help the listener focus amidst the chaos.

"Fuck a Stranger in the Ass" is the most notable song here as it features a sample from The Big Lebowski, which came out just a year before. That was certainly an early sign that the movie was connecting with people on a different plane than many critics and box office analysts could predict. Funk warps John Goodman's gruff yell into an industrial, alien-like call-to-arms and drops it in periodically as a disruptive palate cleanser. The most thrilling aspects of this record are the small moments of intention within the seemingly-random kinetic energy of Funk performing these mostly live. The only track here that lacks a vocal snippet ("Like Tooth Decay") suffers because of it.

To supplement the reissue, three bonus tracks are added, which were made around the same time of Greg Hates Car Culture. Two came from a 1998 cassette Spells, and the almost nine-minute "Milk" has never seen an official release. The latter is the most exciting, coming as close to a 4/4 hard dance track you'll hear from Venetian Snares. You can almost feel Funk trying to break out of these restrictions he's imposed on his blitzkrieg approach. But the moments he submits to it – especially around the three-minute mark with the "milk" sample repetition – are when he reaches a simple euphoria he so often avoids.

Greg Hates Car Culture ultimately stands out for more than being Venetian Snares' first vinyl release; it's the sound of a vital artist throwing ideas on a wall and seeing what stuck. His most acclaimed albums (Songs About My Cats, Rossz Csillag Allat Született) were bound to an overarching vision and were rightfully celebrated for it. While this release does suffer in that regard, it was never meant to be compared to those releases. It was just a small vinyl print from someone who has said that he finds himself at odds with sharing music with the world. The music industry has justifiably bogged him down, and through this reissue, Funk can maybe reclaim a bit of that thrill in letting us hear what he's working on. Maybe.

8
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Reviews

Kent Russell Seeks the Soul of Florida on Epic Road Trip, on Foot

In a bit of a drunken revelry, Kent Russell and his buddies decide it is their destiny to tell the gonzo story of Florida in the time when Trump is campaigning for president.

Music

The 12 Best Brian Wilson Songs

From massive hits to obscure, experimental pop compositions, Brian Wilson's music is always thoughtful, idiosyncratic, and as thrilling today as it was in the 1960s.

Music

Victoria Bailey's "Skid Row" Exemplifies the Bakersfield Sound (premiere + interview)

Victoria Bailey emerges with "Skid Row", a country romp that's an ode to an LA honky-tonk and the classic California Bakersfield sound.

Music

Activism Starts at Home: A Conversation with S.G. Goodman

Folk rocker S.G. Goodman discusses changing hearts and minds in the rural American South, all while releasing her debut album in the middle of a global pandemic. Goodman is a rising artist to watch.

Reviews

Shinichi Atobe's 'Yes' Sports an Appealing Electronic Eeriness

Despite its reverence for the roots of house music, an appealing eeriness blows through electronic producer Shinichi Atobe's Yes like a salty sea breeze.

Music

Irmin Schmidt Meets John Cage on 'Nocturne'

Irmin Schmidt goes back to his Stockhausen roots with a new live album, Nocturne: Live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Music

Country's Corb Lund Finds the Absurd in 'Agricultural Tragic'

On Corb Lund's Agricultural Tragic, he sings of grizzly bears, tattoos, hunting rats and elk, the meaning of author Louis L'Amour's fiction, and the meaning of life.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

How Aaron Sorkin and U2 Can Soothe the Pandemic Mind

Like Aaron Sorkin, the veteran rock band U2 has been making ambitious, iconic art for decades—art that can be soaring but occasionally self-important. Sorkin and U2's work draws parallels in comfort and struggle.

Reviews

Jockstrap's 'Wicked City' Is an Unfolding of Boundaries

On Wicked City, UK art-pop duo Jockstrap run through a gamut of styles and sounds, sometimes gracefully, sometimes forcefully, but always seductively.

Music

Chewing the Fat: Rapper Fat Tony on His Latest Work From Hip-hop's Leftfield

Fat Tony proves a bright, young artist making waves amongst the new generation of hip-hop upstarts.

Music

The Bobby Lees Strike the Punk-Blues Jugular on Jon Spencer-Produced 'Skin Suit'

The Bobby Lees' Skin Suit is oozing with sex, sweat and joyful abandon. It's a raucous ride from beginning to end. Cover to cover, this thing's got you by the short hairs.

Books

'Perramus: The City and Oblivion' Depicts Argentina's Violent Anti-Communist Purge

Juan Sasturain and Alberto Breccia's graphic novel Peraramus: The City and Oblivion, is an absurd and existential odyssey of a political dissident who can't remember his name.

Music

Daniel Avery's Versatility Is Spread Rather Thin on 'Love + Light'

Because it occasionally breaks new ground, Daniel Avery's Love + Light avoids being an afterthought from start to finish. The best moments here are generally the hardest-hitting ones.

Music

Khruangbin Add Vocals But Keep the Funk on 'Mordechai'

Khruangbin's third album Mordechai is a showcase for their chemistry and musical chops.

Music

Buscabulla Chronicle a Return to Puerto Rico in Chic Synthwave on 'Regresa'

Buscabulla's authenticity -- along with dynamite production chops and musicianship -- is irreplaceable, and it makes Regresa a truly soulful synthwave release.

Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.