Venetian Snares (aka Aaron Funk) mangled my ears as an impressionable teenager with his break-core masterpiece Rossz Csillag Alatt Született (Planet Mu, 2005) and was my gateway drug to the even more frantic stylings of maniacs such as Squarepusher and Autechre.
Now he’s making strung-out psyche-pop as Poemss with Toronto producer and music artist Joanne Pollock and it’s a kind of glorious mellow come down. There’s not a break-beat on the record, all the angular angst replaced with sparse but meaningful glitches and melodic spurts of synth. Indeed, the album artwork featuring two cats with four eyes each is a pretty good indicator, this is a furry, cosy album when listened to side on, but stare it in the face and things don’t seem quite right. Unnatural but not threatening.
This is a wonderful record, and there’s strong evidence to suggest that Pollock had as much a hand in it as Mr. Funk; from the vocal stylings to the far more measured and lyrical passages. It’s too dense to be considered minimalist, a little too energetic to be ambient, and there’s enough variance of timbre combined with Pollock’s drawled, sweet vocals to really elevate this above peers such as Raffertie and FRIENDZONE. By way of reference it’s almost closer to a downtempo Ryan Hemsworth or a Machinedrum with say, Laurel Halo spliced into it. Although they’re quite disparate touch-points, there are a number of taste-avenues you might go down to find Poemss, but it’s a worthwhile destination for sure.
Take “Moviescapes”, on which a slow, tidal surge of melancholy, Pollock’s almost lazy, woozy melody and then a depth charge of bass, all read like a nightmarish end-credits. Over to “Gentle Mirror” and Venetian Snares fans will feel more at home (Hospitality slowed down x 100) but still disarmed by how sweet the duet is, really, and how restrained the beats. When they deign to enunciate them, the lyrics (again a marked departure from the screaming chaos of VS’ Infolepsy for example) are imaginative: ‘losing like I’m winning well’ as a mantra, or ‘lay down in dreams of forests, heads on heads’; a pleasing compromise between outright nonsense and strange conjured visions of dreamlike logic.
This album comes so highly recommended because it’s strung out, not drawn out; it’s melodic not chronic and ultimately it’s both pleasant enough to listen to a few times and suggestively dour enough to suck you from there. It’s most definitely a slow burner and will benefit hugely from sitting down with a pair of cans to absorb the meticulous subtleties of the production and intricate interplay of rhythms. It will get under your skin and settle there like a welcome symbiotic, the only criticism being that it might not necessarily suit a more casual listen, and though we might, one doesn’t always have the wherewithal to dedicate 45 minutes to lying prone in the dark. Regardless, post-break-core never sounded as sweet as these wistful Poemss.