The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Venetian Snares
My-So-Called-Life Angus Finlayson , August 25th, 2010 12:10

One of my most cherished memories involves seeing Venetian Snares perform at the Bang Face weekender four months ago. This may seem odd. After all, it's hardly in the realms of The Notebook-style osculations, picturesque sunsets with close friends or wisdom-filled afternoons on Granddad's knee. Nonetheless, it's in there; along with hearing The Mars Volta's De-Loused... for the first time in the back of a car at the age of 13, and sneaking, underage, into a Planet Mu night a few years ago and losing it to Vex'd and Boxcutter (I hope you're not building a picture of me here).

It wasn't just the quality of Snares' set that lingers in the memory; it was the profound weirdness of the event. Standing amid the throng somewhere in the nether regions of a Sunday morning, trying to stay vaguely upright in contravention of my body's basic instincts, the endless parade of ruthlessly articulated percussion began to have a synaesthetic effect; triggering words, images, concepts in my brain which slipped away as soon as I tried to focus on them. It was like some kind of symposium for the Amen break had convened in my Wernicke's Area, and I was struggling to shut out the inane coffee-break chatter of dozens of tiny snare drums. I wish I could describe it more adequately than that.

Listening to My So-Called Life is therefore, for me, as much an act of chemical nostalgia as it is a musical experience. Snares' performance back in April - along with many of his recent live appearances - was saturated with tracks which find a home on this album, leading fans to scour the internet, pooling their knowledge of such as-yet-unnamed gems as 'that "in your punani" one' (a refrain from the typically silly 'Welfare Wednesday'). It's probably no coincidence that this set was one of the best of his that I've seen; avoiding the polar pitfalls of 'back-patting greatest hits medley' and 'gruelling gabba marathon' with satisfying ease.

My So-Called Life sees the Canadian-born Aaron Funk consolidating favoured techniques and sounds into what could almost be called a mature style (inasmuch as the refrain 'I feel so mentally retarded' could ever be considered mature). Perhaps least appealing are the more earnest offerings - the title track and 'Goodbye9/Hello10', which could be off-cuts from 2007's My Downfall - where sequenced orchestral passages and faux-cinematic chord progressions are vaguely redolent of a teenage boy sitting down to write a poem about his feelings after years of pre-pubescent malice towards his peers. More successful are the 200BPM Amen workouts ('Ultraviolent Junglist') and snarling, hardcore-indebted kick drum barrages ('Cadaverous') which have formed the backbone of many a Snares set.

Mostly though, this album is characterised by the mischievous, less-than-savoury smirk so often seen on its creator's face. The genital-fixated monologue of 'Welfare Wednesday', and 'Who Wants Cake?', with its preposterous diva vocal and epileptic piano chords, represent the towering pinnacle of rave music's infantile ideology - a precarious perch which Snares has long laid claim to as his own. These are the tracks which leave me with an enormous grin plastered across my face; the points where Funk retreats fully from his own sphincter to smell the fresh, clean air of utter nonsense.

Aside from the quality of any specific tracks, though, My So-Called Life is a high point in Snares' output purely through the memorability, the instantly likable nature of its content. Over the past decade, Snares has simultaneously become breakcore's pop behemoth and its least derivative advocate; one of those rare artists who manages to sidestep compromise of any sort while remaining (in an odd sort of way) one of the most accessible in his field (after all, if any breakcore artist could be considered a household name, it is he). And, while a succession of 'Snares does serious' releases and underwhelming performances had me almost writing off Winnipeg's most twisted son, the events of the past few months have more than restored my faith. May the bewildering chatter of his snare drums live on for some time yet.