A Quietus Review: My Love is a Bulldozer by Venetian Snares (July 10th, 2014)

The latest album from Aaron Funk starts off in the manner of the vehicle in its title, with ’10th Circle Of Winnipeg’, a truly superlative track in the Venetian Snares canon. The title makes clear what Funk thinks of Manitoba’s capital city, and the track is suitably moody, claustrophobic and bleak. As has been his wont of late, Funk melds electronics and breakbeats with strident string lines, creating a bizarre hybrid of high-octane dance music and modern classical, whilst a female voice (sounding remarkably similar to Billie Holiday, heard on 2005’s Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, Funk’s masterpiece) gloomily intones about snow, emptiness, hatred and the meaningless of life. Jazz-like percussion is deftly interchanged with breakcore thunder and wobbly bass, the track meandering expertly in the interstices between genres and styles. It’s a potent opener, and, much like the baroque, outlandish artwork, sets the tone for My Love Is A Bulldozer.

After such an imposing start, the rest of My Love Is A Bulldozer was bound to struggle to keep the standards up, but even with this in mind, it’s a confusing and muddled album. On Wikipedia, that ever-reliable bastion of authoritative information, Funk’s music is described as both breakcore and, more surprisingly, modern classical, and at various -brief- instances on My Love Is A Bulldozer he seems to be trying to live up to this description as he strips away beats and synths altogether in favour of more orchestral instrumentation. Rarely, however, do moments like ‘Deleted Poems’ and ‘8am Union Station’ go beyond being mere ambient sketches using classical instruments as opposed to actual compositions with much depth, and next to the full-throttle breakcore of later tracks, they sound quite incongruous.

To compound matters, Funk’s use of strings in overtly techno/breakcore tracks, from the crude title track (“Only you can make my dick feel like this”, Funk croons. Really, Aaron?) to even more successful pieces such as ‘Shaky Sometimes’ is a long way from possessing the focus and sensitivity displayed on Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. I know that Venetian Snares has always been a hyperactive entity, but at times My Love Is A Bulldozer feels like it was made by an acute ADHD sufferer after a seven-day coke and Pro Plus bender.

A lot has been discussed about Funk’s singing, often negatively, but, whilst he doesn’t have the best of voices, it’s hardly terrible. Mostly he deploys a sort of early-80s gothic moan, but there are some more varied moments, such as a descent into black metal-ish primal screaming on ‘1000 Years’ or the slightly unsettled yelping on ‘Your Smiling Face’, on which Funk sounds a bit like a less talented David Bowie circa Hours (at a push, I’ll admit). His lyrics are always as bleak and intense as the female voice on ’10th Circle Of Winnipeg’ suggested from the get-go, although rarely with much depth or revelatory contemplations.

Basically, My Love Is A Bulldozer is best when Aaron Funk does what we’ve always known he excels at: distilling bludgeoning, frantically-paced breakbeats in jazzy clusters, supported by his unique ability to blend in other textures, be they strings, voices, samples or electronics. Ambition is hardly a fault, but it’s clear that on this latest salvo, Funk tends to overreach himself.

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