Music

Venetian Snares: My Downfall (Original Soundtrack)

As with its predecessor, My Downfall is a meticulous exercise in constructing intricate and expansive classical music, then inundating the results in heavy drum and bass programming.


Venetian Snares

My Downfall

Subtitle: Original Soundtrack
Label: Planet Mu
US Release Date: 2007-10-09
UK Release Date: 2007-10-08
Amazon
iTunes

Two years after the landmark breakcore symphony of Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett, Winnipeg's Aaron Funk has returned with a proper follow-up. Naturally, it's not the first Venetian Snares release since then: he has maintained his usual hectic schedule with two EPs, two LPs, a 10" and, arguably, the ambiguously authored Last Step album in the interim. But as for the confirmed full-lengths, the pitch-black gabber assault of Meathole was more properly a continuation of the "evil" sounds of Doll Doll Doll and Find Candace, and Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom-Poms was more of a playful digression, combining some of Rossz's orchestral composition with the furious drum programming and amusing sampling forays of past efforts like Chocolate Wheelchair. For a return to the cinematic darkness and grandeur of Rossz, possibly Funk's greatest achievement to date, we had to wait for My Downfall.

As with its predecessor, My Downfall is a meticulous exercise in constructing intricate and expansive classical music from some indistinguishable combination of careful sample manipulation and live instrumentation, then inundating the results in heavy drum and bass programming. Funk's purely classical forays, of which there are many percussionless examples displayed here, tend to either reprise the sounds of Rossz, majestic and steeped in melancholy (opener "Colorless", which has the distinction of introducing the choir motifs that appear throughout the album), or, in a departure closer to a few of Funk's unaccompanied piano pieces of the past, to be choppy and joltingly dissonant (much of the "Hollo Utca" series). The new album also differs slightly from its predecessor in the complete lack of sampled voice, and in a slightly heavier use of overt electronics, bringing in a few synthetic melodies beyond simply Rossz's hard-stepping basslines. The drum programming itself should be familiar, seemingly derived, as before, almost entirely from a frenetic Venetian Snares take on classic jungle programming and the amen break, without resorting to his usual arsenal of distorted gabber drums or sharpened metallic noise. The final difference is simply one of focus: My Downfall live up to its tongue-in-cheek Original Sountrack designation with a heavier focus on the percussionless pieces, 10 of 14 to Rossz's five of 11.

Venetian Snares, as indicated by the very moniker, has long been concerned primarily with drums, so the instrumental focus here is somewhat surprising. Indeed, while he continues to be one of the finest drum-programmers in the business, Funk's instrumentals tend to be skillful exercises in seamless sample manipulation, but probably wouldn't hold listeners' attention on their own. This is not to say that there's anything wrong with them. "Colorless" serves as a fine mood-setting introduction, and "Room 379" moves gracefully from bleak choir to grandly sweeping march in under two minutes. But they've got to meet tough expectations after the integrated orchestral beauty and spine-snapping percussive assaults we've heard before.

Fittingly, it is "Integraation" that most effectively speaks for the four drum-driven tracks. After a slow opening, the first breaks leap in over ascending strings and the arrangement begins an insatiable process of ramping up. This is mostly done through increasingly more devastating bass synth, each new line more distorted than the last, yet still never overpowering the other elements. It's like Rossz's "Masodik Galamb", except without ever giving way to complete gabber overkill. "The Hopeless Pursuit of Remission" introduces crisp acid lines to the mix without ever overlooking its orchestrations, but still tends to add little to the templates set by Rossz. Those acid designs get picked up more skillfully later in the brooding "My Half", which is also punctuated by sharp vinyl cuts and discordant stabs of synth. The fourth and final appearance of Venetian Snares' eponymous element are on "My Crutch", which manages some of the disc's stronger melodic themes. Together, these four highlights would make a solid 12". Here they get a little lost in the instrumentals and may inspire judicious use of the skip button.

My Downfall, though a welcome continuation of Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett, lacks the full epochal freshness of that album's innovations, and tends to obscure them a little in somewhat less striking material. A few elements have been added, a few removed, but on the whole it's fairly familiar ground. Still, removed from the expectations created by Rossz, it's a masterful synthesis of aggression and beauty. Removed from the expectations of being a Venetian Snares album, it's nearly unbelievable. New listeners would be advised to start with Rossz, but they should hardly be underwhelmed were they to enter with the latest. Old listeners should be well-satisfied, if not driven to the same fever pitch of two years prior, but I suppose that's the role rightfully occupied by career pinnacles: to be frequently referenced, and rarely matched.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

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.