- Last year was big for modular synthesizers. In January, Moog announced that they would bring back three of their large-format machines. Experienced wire juggler Blawan kickstarted his TERNESC label with two modular-made EPs, and even artists from outside the dance music sphere—namely Allesandro Cortini, Martin Gore and Sam Prekop of The Sea And Cake—released synth albums. After premiering in 2014, modular synth documentary I Dream of Wires reached new audiences with a wide release and Solvent's extended soundtrack. Manufacturers themselves cashed in on the revived interest in the music of their machines.
This makes Venetian Snares' latest album, Traditional Synthesizer Music, feel oddly trendy for an artist who doesn't give a damn about trends. It's the first record to land on his Planet Mu sub-label, Timesig, since 2012's stinging Fool The Detector EP. You could call that one quintessentially Snares: full of jumbled opposites—ludicrous wit and severe solemness, digital and analogue hybridity, orchestrated chaos—it was as fun as it was disturbing. But records like that obscure the sheer craft and studio obsessiveness of the artist and his creative process. Traditional Synthesizer Music reveals the whiz operating the machines. As the title points out, these 12 songs were written with a modular synth, built from scratch and broken down again after each recording. The whole thing took five months for Aaron Funk to make at his home studio in Winnipeg, Canada.
Traditional Synthesizer Music feels honest and straightforward, operating like a window into Funk's world—one that revolves around music, machines and little else. You can imagine him holed up indoors, shuffling from bed to synth rack and back again, only pausing to roll another cigarette. What came from his process is more organic and floaty than the usual Venetian Snares album. Tracks are as structurally dense and complex as ever, but there's a preternatural softness around the manic beats that makes them easier to handle. Poignant melodies give the album grappling hooks, even if only for a fleeting four minutes. It means the loveliness of tracks like "Everything About You Is Special," "Magnificent Stumble v2" and "You And Shayna v1" quickly dissipates into a blurred memory.
Venetian Snares albums are usually tough and intense listens, but Traditional Synthesizer Music can be fuzzy to a fault. It lacks the internal turmoil that defines Funk's best music. There are some edgy bits here, like the acidic "Anxattack Boss Level19 v3" and manic "She Married A Chess Computer In The End," but even these are more squeaky than spiky. For all of Traditional Synthesizer Music's smooth modular finesse, Funk is still better at leaving scars.
01. Dreamt Person v3
02. Everything About You Is Special
03. Slightly Bent Fork Tong v2
04. Magnificent Stumble v2
06. Can't Vote For Yourself v1
07. You And Shayna v1
08. Goose And Gary v2
09. Anxattack Boss Level19 v3
10. She Married A Chess Computer In The End
11. Health Card10
12. Paganism Ratchets