Venetian Snares have been releasing unsettling and dischordant music for 20 years – it seems crazy to ask, but are they becoming familiar and cosy. Particularly as the new album is a collaboration with Canadian super-producer and friend of U2 Danial Lanois. How would a collaboration between guitar based perfection and uneasy listening work?
It’s better than you could have hoped for – ambient guitar overlaid with frantic discord. Complex percussion plows over and through guitar soundscapes. It’s fare to say that a Venetian Snaers fan will get more out of this than a Lanois fan.
Mag11 P82 eases in with a cacophonous beats over ambient background, setting the tone. Then Hpshk505 P127 takes over with its rattling snares and bleeps driving the ambience forwards, giving a sinsister urgency.
United P92 is the album centrepiece and highlight. A nine minutes movement – more forthright guitars, which occassionally distort, a gradual tempo increase, the sparse beats being kept on a tight leash until they escape. “The Machine Can Come” sample (the only words on the entire album) heralding the point where percussion hits its heights. It races away for the second half of the track, before closing with demolition and engaged dial tones, and what sounds like a malfunctioning film reel close this epic
After that – the album steps back slightly on Bernard Revist P81, strangely this is a more percussive track, but it highlights how the seemingly drifting guitar soundscapes drive the noise forward, as they are held back here, meaning it sounds a little like a Basil Kirchin ode to heavy industry.
Best P54 – starts by luring you into thinking this will be a regular beat pattern, building regularly into the most cinematic and chilled track on the album, if this album was scoring a film, then this is where the characters take a melancholy drive along the beach at sunset.
If the last track was a chance for Lanois to show what he can do, Mothers Pressroll P131 is where Venetian Snares is allowed to play, drums crackle by so fast they blur. And then they get faster.
Night Mxcmpv1 P74 winds it back down, with the slide guitar (and what might be an organ) more prominent, giving an ethereal crescendo, but pockmarked by the snares and bleeps of the percussion, before the quietest track of all Ophelius 1Stp118 closes the album, no percussion at all here, leaving just a distorted synth sound lost on the wind.
It’s an album of contradictions – the harshest retro-futuristic techno bleeps over a beautiful guitar tone. Never losing it’s theme, or overstaying it’s welcome, and always offering something new to listen to. The percussion and guitars run their own path through all the tracks, but you couldn’t imagine one without the other, and the blend never feels forced. The album hits its many highs when they could almost have recorded each half in isolation, but then you realise the 2 are working together without you noticing. Not really a noise album, a techno album or an ambient album, just 2 musicians at the top of their craft working together to try something new.