Venetian Snares Traditional Synthesizer Music

[Planet Mu; 2016]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: modular synth
Others: Aphex Twin, YMO, Raymond Queneau

Here we go, into the world of modular synths, grasping for multi-colored cords, wandering into sound, entering a room with a swipe of a card, in a basement with a glass of wine offering vertical stars, or in a basement with green dragons, a.k.a. a basement with security cameras, wherein I will meet thee, at thy throne of electronic gadgets and therefore a sound, therefore only a small sound duplicated in time, wherein from the mightiest of machines comes a frequency, in its micro-galactic sublimity.

Modular synth, semiotically, as in a symbol of mathematic sovereignty over the world. Or a symbol of lost time. Or a symbol of the space-time continuum. Or a symbol of time-warps. Or the space-drive time-warp gravitational-wave dual-wielding starboard-side of this gigantic surface: words, blips as drums, word as bumps as in therefore, yes, he, Venetian Snares, has made sound from these inputs and outputs.


I can’t stop listening to music with my ears, and I can’t go on, but I will go on, and I am, but I can’t, and I will touch this knob here, and that patch there, and make a BPM, here, and over there, yonder, in that room, over that boulder of patches, and the gigantic stuffed tiger, yes, there, that little thing called The Little Thing Oscillator, there’s this one input that if you plug a cord in it and then drag that cord here and with those other patches already assembled like so, you will get this metallic fluff noise bouncing off spaceship walls: intergalactic squash battles between Martians and Plutonians. Into, out of, into, out of, into, out of, ad infinitum, ad nauseaum, etc.

Oh, the utilitarian veracity. The coffee pot hums on the webcam. I’m not in a basement, but in the office, watching The Office, thinking about the differences and samenesses therein. Brain-melter burger-curse, therefore a joke. I’m gonna snatch your Adam’s apple and stab you in your ears. (Just kidding.) In all seriousness: in time, the guitar became a symbol of the 20th century, and so did the modular synth, but of what? What kinds of worlds does it embody? Well, ask the storytellers of its essence. Ask Venetian Snares. You can do anything with it, but ultimately, most musicians end up constructing melody & harmony from various blips with it, opting for the sci-fi/mathematical route versus the religious/philosophical. Nothing else can happen with these goddamn machines, right? The imagination, faced with a cavern of modulars, once and for all has limits.


But wait a minute. How is this traditional? Who do we start with, Johann Sebastian Bach or Wendy Carlos? (And/or Mozart’s horse wig?) Move into the next space where all the synth-bros cum over a rare Moog in a glass cage; they call it moogkake. Where does the tradition start? The invention of the synthesizer of course, but that thing, the synth, has a precursor in the piano-forte, which has a precursor in the harpsichord. Let’s start with the synthesizer, and drop the names: Klaus Shulze, Delia Derbyshire, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, YMO, Vangelis, Jean-Paul Jarre, Isao Tomita, Richard D. James, Dave Smith, Laurie Spiegel, Edgar Froese, Giogio Moroder, Morton Subotnick, and Pauline Oliveros, Eliane Radigue, and Suzanne Ciani.

The aforementioned artists, by using the synthesizer, created disparate musics that, for all the better, don’t cohere into one uniform tradition. If anything, the tradition Venetian Snares has decided upon is the synthesizer as it relates to live-performance at the rave/club, specifically in various American cities (Detroit, Chicago, New York, Baltimore) and London, England, during the 90s. Today, the nostalgia for that era is on high, therefore this album.


Who doesn’t love a good constraint, though? I’m a bookworm, so naturally you say constraint and I say OULIPO, specifically Georges Perec, the author of A Void, a novel without using the letter E, and Raymond Queneau, the author who wrote One Hundred Thousand Billion Sonnets. There are others, of course, like Harryette Mullen. (The tradition, though predominately French and male, has its women.) The constraint of the modular synth is the constraint of timbre, and the restraint of the (temptation of the) computer. To compose music without a computer, today, makes you slightly more interesting than usual, because you’ve got to be on your shit a little more intensely, especially when it comes to timing and harmonic construction.

The timbres of the modular synth, in my opinion, are dull, but that doesn’t mean that Venetian Snares hasn’t created interesting music from his machines. To put them in motion, to record them, too, to make sense of their radiances, their hot-burning essences, their ultrafast energy transfers from patch to patch, liquid and mysterious. It’s a feat, and he knows it is, and it’s a subculture, a way to say “look what I can do and what you can’t.” It’s also a way of testing your might against others who have stared at the knobs of a mod, before your time, and hunkered down to programming, staring at the nothingness of sound ready to excite airwaves and vibrate frequencies. The historicity of the modular synth beckons once you begin patching.


With that being said, we’re in the era of the DAW. We’re also in a perpetual modular synth revival, a perpetual analog synth revival, and a perpetual “bring back that sound, use that sound as a soft synth, download that entire catalog of sounds for free on this website.” Venetian Snares might know that. He might consciously be rebelling against that. Therefore a sound: Traditional Synthesizer Music.

Links: Venetian Snares - Planet Mu

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