Album Reviews

Last Step – Sleep

(Planet Mu) UK release date: 14 May 2012

Generally, making music when tired is a bad idea. In theory, making music literally as one falls asleep is an even worse idea. In practice, however – if the new project from Mr Aaron Funk, otherwise known as Venetian Snares, is anything to go by – it definitely works. Anyone familiar with his more abrasive work listening to the third album he’s recorded under the alias of Last Step will be surprised, not least because this is a side of Funk’s talent that we never knew existed.

Sleep is an endlessly melodic album. Under the Venetian Snares moniker, Funk produces hyperactive IDM which takes in everything from breakcore to sheer, terrifying noise. However, for a man known to create debilitating pieces of music that, one way or another, leave an impression on the listener, his sense of melody here is extremely impressive; the flowing soundscapes created on opener Xyrem are a case in point.

Some things never change, though. While the overall mood of the album is laid-back and rather soothing, certain aspects of the Venetian Snares sound have crossed over into the intoxicating world of Last Step; namely, the artist’s penchants for odd time-signatures (not for him standard 4/4; Somno is written in 7/4, and a number of songs on the album have five beats to the bar) and complex song structures. Things are rarely straightforward in Funk’s world; for instance, penultimate track Cimicdae may open with a surprisingly direct hook, but the constant changes of rhythmical emphasis are disconcerting, and the basis of the track, its synth-bass line, is almost completely drowned out before it fades away. This may be an album that’s soporific in comparison to Funk’s other work, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t strive to keep things interesting.

Sleep is best described as an experimental house music album; the emphasis is firmly placed on rhythm and texture, but there are twists and turns aplenty. Obispo functions as a sort of interlude for the album, but it packs much more into its 84-second running time than might be expected before drifting away and paving the path for the infectious Lazy Acid 3. This starts out as a bass-and-drums-led jam, but is later given a lift by a soaring strings part, which increases in prominence as time goes by, floating over everything else. It is the sort of thing that shouldn’t work so well, but it does, highlighting the fact that Sleep is an album with hidden depths; full of growers, despite a more immediate direction being pursued. It is, most of all, an album that proves that Funk’s experimental approach to music-making works, no matter what the context. There are always clear flashes of brilliance in everything he does, no matter which name he goes under whilst creating it.

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Last Step – Sleep