Aaron Funk is a bad man. The Winnipeg native has been bashing out top-notch electronic albums under the name Venetian Snares at a rather astonishing rate over the past decade, but always with a devilishly playful approach to sonic overload that borders on antisocial. Venetian Snares represents an extreme form of mutated drum and bass typically known as either breakcore or drill and bass, and while both are admittedly stupid names, there is little denying that this music is a hardcore noise assault. Thus, our second installment of Reverse Polarity highlights Funk’s 2001 album Doll Doll Doll.
Still, the open question remains: What is the hook that connects this to metal? Why should the enterprising metalhead go out of his or her way to track down these alien sounds? The question is all the more pertinent given that Doll Doll Doll is hardly even the most over-the-top of Venetian Snares’ albums in terms of sheer programmed drum overload or cascading sheets of violent noise. Rather, the reason that this album can be whole-heartedly recommended to metal fans is its overwhelmingly dark atmosphere of lurking malevolence. We’re talking killer behind the curtain, shadow on the doorstep, distant screams echoing through a deserted city spooky.
“Pygmalion” opens the album sparsely, all dark ambient and fluttering half-beats before it veers in to freak the shit out of you. Every single thing about this album is queasy and discordant, from the off-tune piano chords that cut in towards the end of “Pygmalion” to the hard metallic crack of most of Funk’s drum sounds, and from the bits of sampled jazz to the deeply disturbing vocal samples littered methodically throughout. “Remi,” for example, plays things pretty cool and unassuming for most of its duration, letting your mind sink into the groove of thick and complex programming, but then it overlays a deep male voice saying “You’re dead…again” with a female voice saying “I love you, so much.” Cheery stuff, but as I said, Aaron Funk is a bad man.
Things really pick up with “Dollmaker,” which starts off with muted piano vamping, a sample of Apocalyptica covering “Harvester of Sorrow” (no shit), and skittering jazz snare that sounds like it could have walked straight out of any mid-period Amon Tobin tune. Soon, though, well, you’ll see…
In case you missed it, that sample was, in part, “When I cut your neck, leave a little piece of skin so the head won’t fall off.” If it hasn’t yet been made abundantly clear, there is no light anywhere in this album. Even though it isn’t until “Pressure Torture” that Funk finally unleashes the full aural punishment that characterized some of his earliest Snares work, the rest of the album is no less intense for its relative sparseness, instead relying on a pervasive atmosphere of noir always ready to tip into full-on violent exploitation to keep the listener in a state of constant attention, a bit disgusted but always transfixed. Oh, and in addition to closing with a song called “All the Children are Dead,” Doll Doll Doll’s penultimate track “Macerate and Petrify” twists and perverts Sarah McLachlan’s vocals from Delerium’s “Silence” to absolutely horrifying effect.
There are Venetian Snares albums that bring the extreme noise assault more unrelentingly (e.g., Songs about My Cats, Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole, Making Orange Things, The Chocolate Wheelchair Album), and there are other breakcore albums that come closer to crossing the bridge into actual metal sonics (most notably Bong-Ra’s Full Metal Racket and Hecate’s Brew Hideous), but Doll Doll Doll remains Aaron Funk’s most deeply unsettling work by a fair margin.
Perhaps none of this sounds like a particularly glowing recommendation, but its total wrongness is matched by its sophistication and careful attention to craft. Hell, if you’ve ever felt like having Ulver’s Perdition City played five times faster, ten times meaner, and crammed full of killers and psychopaths, look no further. Funk has got your back, you terrible miscreant.
Addendum: Also of note for the electro-inclined metalhead is the excellently tongue-in-cheek 10” single Funk put out entitled, completely accurately, Sabbath Dubs.