Aaron Funk is a man with fingers in a frankly indecent number of pies, so you can perhaps forgive him for his tardiness as far as the Venetian Snares canon is concerned; this is his first proper full-length under the moniker in four years, and the last one - My So-Called Life - was, by his own admission, a deliberate rush-job, likened to “diary entries” rather than anything more substantial. Not that Funk has ever been a major stickler for cohesion; like most of his work, My Love Is a Bulldozer is defined by its diffuse nature.
It’s a record, too, that possesses all the subtlety of that titular vehicle; opener “10th Circle of Winnipeg” is precisely seven minutes of pulsating breakbeat that occasionally lets up for brief snatches of synth-flavoured respite. It’s immediately followed by “Deleted Poems”, a dramatic orchestral piece punctuated only by a flicker of a female voice - “don’t just walk away” - and some entirely incongruous acoustic guitar late on. “1000 Years” then takes elements of both, throws in flashes of an angry male vocal and some apparently arbitrarily-selected electronic sound effects, and leaves the listener in no doubt whatsoever about whether this record is going to be for them. The artwork, after all, depicts Funk as a centaur. He is not a man easily given to artistic compromise.
The album continues in a similar vein from there on out. The breakbeat-heavy tracks, which are Funk’s bread and butter, really, veer between the messy and overcrowded - the title track is a case in point - and the sharply effective; “Shaky Sometimes” builds gradually in both pace and atmosphere, with the beat happy to share prominence with some rudimentary synth. “She Runs”, meanwhile, is a little more understated - just as quick, but nothing like as harsh - and provides some welcome relief at the midpoint.
The results are similarly mixed when Funk ventures into more experimental territory. The gentle Spanish guitar on “8am Union Station” makes for a neat interlude, and “Your Smiling Face” might be the standout; the erratic vocals are loaded with soul, made all the more pronounced by a sparse backdrop. “Dear Poet” probably does the best job of incorporating the album’s classical leanings - which, honestly, sit awkwardly throughout - but it drags on a little too long, with a meandering final couple of minutes stripping the track of its vitality. The less said about “Too Far Across”, the better; vocally, Funk can do guttural and he can do breathy, but both at the same time, with only a tentatively plucked acoustic for backing? I’m not convinced.
The Marmite quality of Funk’s work certainly hasn’t dissipated in the four years since we last heard from him in long-playing form; in fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking, on the basis of My Love Is a Bulldozer, that he actually considers it key to Venetian Snares. There’s evidence that he’s pursued some kind of consistency to the album’s mood, but it’s sonically so scattered that you can’t help but feel he’s fighting a losing battle; ultimately, he’ll end up back where he started - with devotees satisfied, but little in the way of fresh converts.