Venetian Snares, aka Canadian sonic manipulator Aaron Funk, has been making brilliantly inventive and thrilling electronic music for over 20 years now. From his early days as an early pioneer of break-core and experiments with samples and all manner of strange sounds, Funk established himself as a musician unafraid to experiment and defy convention.
Having released records across numerous labels and formats, Funk has once again gone against prevailing expectations with his latest musical project. Poemss, a collaboration with Toronto based musician and producer Joanne Pollock, is a diverting musical volte-face for Funk. Eschewing fevered break-core drum attacks, he and Pollock indulge in something altogether stranger.
Pollock seems to have brought out a different side in Funk’s music. Throughout their self-titled debut album as Poemss the duo create warped, dark and spacey electronic love songs that are rich in mystery and intrigue. The sound of Poemss is experimental and hard to pin down. It’s not particularly rooted in any specific style, although the dreamy textures and high-pitched synth frequencies resemble the sci-fi like dream pop of Purity Ring. While the music is spaced out and strung out, the twin voices provide a bewitching focal point. The best moments here see the two playing off each other wonderfully. Pollock’s pure crystalline voice is a perfect contrast to Funk’s low, sonorous croon, which is reminiscent of the distinctive voice of fellow Canadian artist Devon Welsh of Majical Cloudz. There’s a wonderful feeling of dislocation and mystery as the duo repeatedly intone the lyric, “I could be your lie” on the dank, dark Gentle Mirror. Elsewhere, Moviescapes is a sinister waltz led by Pollock, with the music tripping in eerie strobes around her.
There are precious little moments of light and colour on Poemss; the songs are mostly understated and restrained. But it’s a deeply beguiling listen, even if at first you don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s an ugly album in the best sense of the word; songs like the drawled, spaced out Losing Meaning are riven with tension and fear. The eerie ambience of the music adds to a rather spooked out feeling that is repeated on the odd ballad of Hall Of Faces.
Despite the feeling of strangeness that permeates throughout, it certainly isn’t impenetrable. There are clear and defined songs, mixed in with a number of typically inventive instrumental pieces. This album is Funk’s first foray into anything approaching a typical song based style and he adapts to it well, aided by Pollock’s evident melodic skill. The pair worked closely together throughout the recording of the album in Funk’s house in Winnipeg, and there’s certainly the sense that it is music born out of a close relationship. Nothing sounds forced or thrown together.
Lyrically, the album is full of murky and odd imagery. Funk’s low tortured voice sounds particularly menacing on the slow, lurching Heads On Heads. Where Poemss excels is in leaving the spaces and the gaps to allow the imagery generate to ferment and create your own images in your mind. Poemss is very much a new venture for its makers that has precious little, if any, resemblance to their previous work. Instead, it’s something of a musical reinvention, and the possible beginning of a very fruitful partnership.