A hit and miss album, but its high points salvage it from inconsequentiality.
Chris Power 2010
Spurning an allegedly real name that one half of the UK bass music community would happily slaughter the other for, Canada’s Aaron Funk has always preferred to release his productions under the pseudonym Venetian Snares (aside from occasional appearances as Snares Man! and Senetian Vnares). This mischievous perversity is conspicuous throughout his prodigious output, which has been a blend of the sublime and the slapstick since 2000’s printf("shiver in eternal darkness/n");.
My So-Called Life is, according to Funk, a much more immediate document than any of its predecessors, most of its tracks taking just a day or two to create. The claim is impressive in some cases, less so in others. It’s a hit and miss album, but its high points salvage it from inconsequentiality, as does the obsessive restlessness of Funk’s creativity, which is always of interest even when it isn’t yielding its best results.
Venetian Snares productions are always notable for the precision of their frenetic drum programming, which harnesses the strain of hyper junglist breakbeat pioneered by leftfield producers like Luke Vibert, μ-Ziq and Aphex Twin. In the mid-to-late 1990s they took the rhythmical power of drum‘n’bass and experimented with just how far it could be stretched, with results that often proved to be more of intellectual interest than dancefloor utility. Funk is indebted to them, but applies enough self-control that the scudding beats and warped rave signals of Cadaverous, or Ultraviolent Junglist’s gabba-like frenzy, maintain a coherent momentum even as they hover at the edge of abstraction.
Funk’s love of inane samples and vocal lines infects his work with a pranksterish sense of being idiotic to be smart, but irony tends to work best in forms other than music. Welfare Wednesday’s ragga-style toast about putting egg salad sandwiches and Chef Boyardee into someone’s punani gets radically less funny the farther you are from puberty, while Who Wants Cake?, with its “We suspect she may be retarded” sample, sniggers from the back of the class of 89.
Tracks like these, despite the technical panache of their construction, are ephemeral. But the same can’t be said of My So-Called Life’s more reflective works. Goodbye9/Hello10 hangs suspended between staccato hardcore stabs and gloomily sawed strings, while Aaron 2, with mournful horns curling above a toxic post-rave chaos, exemplifies Funk at his best by being ludicrous, ferocious and freighted with melancholy all at once.
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