Friday, June 24, 2005
Album Review: Venetian Snares - Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding
(Planet Mu, 2004)
And so begins another new feature. Blatant commercialism? - if only. Warp (quite rightly) are cocky enough to offer up the Bleep player without any financial incentive for the host, because they know we will put it up anyway
I think I can justify it's inclusion on the site - it makes the album reviews interactive - listen while you read etc. Equally, it will be nice to (hopefully) see this site make a little revenue for the artists I post, rather than, as in its current incarnation, deprive them of it
Don't worry though - this was seriously time consuming so I'm not going to do too many
So why review an album that has been out over a year?
A. Because I've never read a satisfactory review of it
B. Because I haven't heard anything better since it was released
Future reviews will probably be a mix of new stuff and older albums that I think are worth, for one reason or another, going back over, but who knows...
This album takes a lot of listening to before it becomes truly enjoyable - the play count on my iTunes for this album far outstrips anything else - but the effort is more than worth it. I really haven't heard anything better...
1. Huge Chrome Peach
Huge Chrome Peach introduces you to the aesthetic of the album. Snares' palette of sounds is similar throughout the fourteen tracks - very clean, seperate metallic beeps, interspersed with minute blasts of fuzz/white noise, all spread across the spectrum of stereo to further seperate and isolate each event so it can be fully appreciated. This track is far from being the most catchy on the album, perhaps serving to build anticipation for what comes next...
One of the most melodic tracks on the album, and one of the most conventional in terms of rhythm and structure, Bonivital is an another introduction to Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding in that it is accessible where some of the other tracks take a number of listens before they become coherent. (It is of course these tracks that eventually become favourites due to the hours they consumed while you were trying to get your head round them). Bonivital is a track you want to go back to immediately, making you listen not only to it, but the more difficult tracks again
3. Cadmium Lung Jacket
A simple, melancholic melody repeats throughout this track and is an example of Snares' habit of using simple elements to string together the far more complex rhythms that run over the top. The long sound in the background acts as a straight line, keeping the track moving in one direction though the constantly changing time signature. This movement is then broken by the three-key piano-like melody that seems to send the line in another direction. This allows the track to constantly move around the given space, with the various sounds used to make up the beat leaping off the line like sparks
Similarly to Bonivital, Vida is one of the tracks that catches your attention upon first listen, but it also has a lasting appeal. Not a millisecond isn't looked after and perfected in this track and the result is one of the high points on the album. The beat dances around the melody, seemingly propelled by it, but at the same time driving it. What appears at first to be a rather simple melody turns out to be more complex when you realise the variety of sounds that contribute to it. Many of the sounds used to make up the beat also make up the melody, however subtlely - some so drastically different that it is hard to see the continuity between them
5. Coke Ajax
One of least crowded tracks on the album, which contributes to its melancholic nature. Although a lot of the sounds are slightly longer and wider than in other tracks, each starts and ends very precisely, and this precision allows you to pinpoint their exact position. Snares' music seems to revolve around the precise description of movement through space, allowing him to disregard any conventional notions about time signatures. The focus on movement may explain why such clean, seperate, minute sounds are required, as longer sounds would be too vague. I guess this has its roots in the emergence of stereo as another parameter to consider when making music - it was always going to create an environment in which music about movement through space was going to be created. (Enough... this is starting to sound more like an essay in the making than an album review...)
Li2CO3 jolts along somewhat unremarkably in comparison with some of the other tracks on the album and for me at least seems to be a sort of interlude
7. Ion Divvy
I overlooked Ion Divvy for months, but it has become a favourite recently. The track ping pongs from left to right, making it one of Snares' most conventional stereo arrangements. It makes it seem as if your speakers are having some sort of converstaion - and I should think this is what your speakers might sound like if they could talk
Another of the more conventional tracks. The dramatic intro to the first drop works well, and then the computerised voice reading out the equation is a great way to go into the second
9. Nineteen 1319
The challenger to Vida's throne for best track on the album. Gradually builds to the 'You got my number' drop, which still has me dancing around every time I hear it
10. Destroy Glass Castles
I've grouped these two together mainly out of laziness. These are my least favourite tracks on the album - they're a little too deconstructed for my liking - almost to the point of being totally abstract
12. Bent Annick
Bent Annick is very subtle - probably the last tune I learned to like on the album. The melody almost isn't there. I love the beat though, it seems to wind itself up tightly and then spring out when the kick sounds. Another seemingly very spacious track
This track was used as an introduction to Snares' tracks on the Amunition compilation, and it worked very well in that position. Here, it seems a little out of place - although it forms the precendent for Hiszékeny's positioning on Rossz Csillag Allat Született - the token ambient/beatless piece a couple of tracks from the end
One of the darker tracks on the album. Similarly abstract to Destroy Glass Castles and Chlorophyll, only the voice sounds keep this track from being a little too inaccessible. About half way though Snares seems to tie the elements together and from then on its a pleasure to listen to
I realised half way through this review that I don't have the words to adequately describe listening to this album. What you know is happening in your head when you hear it is difficult to describe without sounding somewhat ridiculous. Equally I'm sure it affects people very differently, so when I imagine movement someone next to me may interpret the same series of sounds entirely differently
While you can't memorise the words, like you would a song, eventually each track does become firmly rooted in your memory, allowing you to follow and subconsciously predict each and every sound - and that's where the true pleasure of listening to this album comes from. The tracks may be too quick to perceptibly know inside out (to the extent you could reproduce them without listening to them), but it is still possible to know fairly precisely what happens in each one. The fact that this information is inaccessible, locked away in your brain, forces you to come back to the album indefinitely - and this is its finest achievement