When it comes to unexpected creative link-ups between fellow Canadian artists, an album-length collaboration between cinematic guitar atmospherist Daniel Lanois and hyper-detailed breakbeat king Venetian Snares (real name Aaron Funk) is certainly not one of the events that you’d predict happening in 2018. In truth though, this collaboration between the two seemingly disparate musicians has been in the making for the last two years, after Funk started hanging out with Lanois in Toronto in between live shows, with the pair more recently going on to play live shows to critical acclaim.
While the pair at first seem to occupy completely separate ends of the musical spectrum for one another, if anything, the eight tracks that make up this debut self-titled collaborative album reveal that they’re not as different as you might immediately think. For a start, both deal in absolute listener immersion and deep textural stimulation, whether in the case of Lanois’ enveloping desert landscapes, or the sheer rush of Funk’s sensory overload of detail. In many senses, transcendence is the goal that both artists aim for in their work, even if the methods that they use to arrive at that goal differ radically from one another.
Opener ‘Mag11 P82’ certainly illustrates this, with Funk at first sprinkling layers of sparse twinkling electronics over Lanois’ delayed out, oceanic guitar murmurs, before his trademark forest of arrhythmic breakbeats lurches to life, Lanois’ majestic background textures providing the one remaining anchor of serenity as the controrted electronics grow into dense knot of tendrils that occupy seemingly every last inch of space in the mix. There’s a sense of Funk playing Jackson Pollock to Lanois’ Rothko, splashing globs of colour and texture all over the finished mix, but there’s a distinct vein of cohesion and balance running through all of these tracks.
‘HpShk5050 P127’ illustrates the duo’s intuition and awareness of balance, with Funk delicately placing plangent bass chords and jazzy rhythmic flurries around Lanois’ echoing guitar tones and bends, before gradually pumping the gas more and more as the track progresses, the dense layers of jagged breakbeats building up into a metallic sheen before dropping away completely against the soft-focus guitar trails.
Elsewhere, ‘United P92’ alternates between playful and sinister as Lanois’ manipulated guitar tones grow more somber against bright synth flecks and snare kicks, the rhythms corkscrewing into a clenched mass of timestretched and filtered noise as vocal sample repeatedly intones “the machine can come”, like some lone human desperately trapped somewhere in the guts of some huge ‘Akira’-style writhing biomechanical beast. If anything, this inspired collaboration shows that like blue cheese and apricots, it’s often the more unexpected combinations that yield some of the most satisfying results.