Morrow vs. Hajduch: Venetian Snares’ Cubist Reggae

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Venetian Snares: Cubist ReggaeVenetian Snares: Cubist Reggae (Planet Mu, 5/23/11)

Venetian Snares: “The Identification Circles Levitate”

[audio:|titles=Venetian Snares: “The Identification Circles Levitate”]

Hajduch: Electronic surrealist Venetian Snares (a.k.a. Aaron Funk) returns with his zillionth release for Planet Mu.  Cubist Reggae has a title that gets right to the point: this is a four-track EP that deconstructs reggae samples down to a nervous, amorphous tangle of sound.  Largely free of the jungle brutalism common to Snares’ sound, Cubist Reggae favors a (relatively) slow burn, with lots of space to breathe (when that space is not being filled with deep-voiced threats of violence).

Morrow: You never know what to expect from a Snares release; it could be something that he’s never done or something that he’s done a bunch.  Thankfully, this falls in the former category, and it’s fun to hear what reggae and dub can become when in his hands.

Those deep-voiced rumblings make the first track much creepier than its otherwise benign (yet weird) structure would dictate.  But that’s about the end of the creepiness, and the next three songs — though a bit eerie at times — are a challenging IDM take on a tired genre.

Hajduch: I resent your use of the word “tired,” but these tracks definitely imbue the genre with something brand new.  Even the wildest fringes of ragga jungle don’t keep a listener on their toes the way the tracks do here.  Whereas the second song is a meditative dirge, punctuated by a wobbly synth, “The Identification Circles Levitate” may in many ways be the quietest that Venetian Snares has ever gotten.  A single chord repeats, augmented by dub echoes, an occasional staggered guitar triplet, and very sparse percussion.  Occasionally, it gets a cross-handed breakbeat shuffle, but it never lasts more than a few seconds before settling back down.

It’s tension-building without true resolution, and eventually, melancholy drone overtakes the other elements.  The drums come back with a certain fury, backed up by a sturdy jungle bass line, but their heart isn’t in it, and the song shuffles out as quietly as it arrived.

Morrow: Though the digital age has done interesting things to reggae, there are only so many times that you can accent the upbeat with the same guitar chord or horn stab before getting tired of it, no matter how many subgenres reggae has spawned (dub, dancehall, digital dancehall) or where it came from (ska, rocksteady).  That’s all I meant by “tired.”  Either way, the direction taken here is weird and welcome.

I mentioned this in yesterday’s installment of This Week’s Best Albums, but there are short, slightly orchestral moments on the EP that recall some of Snares’ more dramatic material from My Downfall (Original Soundtrack).  If he were to do a longer album in this vein, I think that he’d do well to include a bit more of that.

That leads me to ask: could this spawn a new project as…Jamaican Snares?

Leave a Comment