Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

[Planet Mu; 2018]

Styles: breakcore ambient, drill & chill
Others: Xanopticon, Drumcorps, Bruce Cockburn

Humans have a relationship with food that transcends mere sustenance. Food is synonymous with culture, linking to our identities and connecting us with our ancestors. Across millennia, we’ve investigated various ways to cook, combining ingredients in an insatiable, experimental quest for culinary nirvana.

That might be why, in 2016, NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted about his favorite sandwich. Its three ingredients — bread, banana, and mayonnaise — were a curious mix to say the least. Minutes later, the internet frothed with strong reactions, mostly of revulsion. It eventually led writers at Esquire to take Earnhardt up on the recipe, though they too found the ingredients unpalatable.

These kinds of dietary idiosyncrasies exist everywhere. Look no further than Kool-Aid-soaked pickles called “Koolickles.” Or if soda is more your thing, try Coca-Cola and peanuts together. Stranger still, combine sweaty slices of cheddar cheese and apple pie. Cringing when reading any of these descriptions is part of the hazard of food experimentation; while it should always be encouraged, success is by no means guaranteed.

This is how the self-titled collaboration between Venetian Snares and Daniel Lanois plays out. Snares and Lanois have been acquaintances since 2014. In 2016, they decided to document some of their experiments by recording at a former Buddhist temple turned recording studio. While this sounds like the perfect environment for generating new ideas — and the musicians insist that exploration forms the crux of their endeavor (what project doesn’t?) — the record brings few innovations out of either collaborator. Worse, the results are downright unsavory; each artist’s style comes from a different planet, and those styles don’t mix well when thrown together.

Venetian Snares’s raw, frenetic sound fragments are a sonic onslaught that demand full attention. He fuses breakcore with 90s IDM, producing fastidiously spliced beats that are impressive from a programming perspective. It brings to mind the mischievous electropunk of Kid606, the hyperprocessed sounds of Richard Devine, or any number of other artists from Planet Mu, where Venetian Snares has released much of his prolific output. The best of his tunes utilize a range of effects to process and mangle every element of the electronic production. His music is a prolonged shout, often with little room for subtlety in favor of sheer brute force. Here, more is more.

Daniel Lanois is the opposite. His roaming ambient tones are dizzying nimbus clouds that use pedal steel guitar as its tour guide. Extricating this instrument from its genre associations is no small feat and makes Lanois’s compositions truly remarkable. Cresting of their own accord, Lanois’s notes are divorced of conventional rhythm, existing within the liminal world of dreams. He evokes nature’s calm, but also its irregularities. He’d be right at home soundtracking a spa retreat.

The resulting album from these two is schizophrenic, like the sensation when several browser tabs are autoplaying news stories or ads. The lead single and album opener “Mag11 P82” begins promisingly enough with Lanois’s lilting sound and some galactic blips from Snares. But the mood is soon disrupted with the breakcore bursts we’ve come to associate with Snares, Lanois squashed underneath. The rest of the record deviates little from this exercise. One entry, the 10-minute long “United P92,” manages to hang on until the halfway point before veering off into a directionless second half. By contrast, “Bernard Revisit P81” is a two-minute throwaway, similar to Squarepusher’s “Metteng Excuske v1.2.” Listen to “HpShk5050 P127” for one of the record’s best, as well as “Mothors Pressroll P131” for the biggest barrage, the latter marred however for being nearly indistinguishable from segments of “Night MXCMPV1 P74.”

One of the aims of collaboration is to engage in dialogue through musical instruments. On Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois, the musicians talk past each other, each carrying on with their own monologues. One can’t fault either artist for playing his sound; it’s just that these aesthetics don’t gel. If Snares eschews emotion, Lanois is indebted to it. If Snares is complexity incarnate, Lanois is distilled modesty. These are strengths that are realized individually but create discord in tandem. Their pairing is like eating apple pie topped with cheddar cheese: some are sure to find enjoyment in the combination, but for the rest of us, these pairings are best avoided.

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