Review Summary: Funk see, Funk do.
Keeping in mind Aaron Funk’s penchant for ironic, often nonsensical album titles, I went into Traditional Synthesizer Music
expecting the opposite of its namesake: machines at the mercy of their operator, percussion that breaks the synaptic connections of the brain, an aural palette that pushes the limitations of sound design, etc. Suffice to say, this album’s comparative restraint came as more of a shock than material of said description could have ever hoped to be. While Funk’s tongue remains firmly planted into his cheek given that this album isn’t “traditional” in the strictest meaning of the word, it’s still quite familiar, bringing to mind the likes of Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album
, Autechre’s Cichlisuite
and even LP5
, at times. There is an intangible sense of charisma here, as if Funk has elected to drop his some-would-say-tired shtick and simply made what he felt like making, as opposed to what was expected of him.
The end result, though a dramatic contrast isn’t a total abandonment of the Venetian Snares sound we all know and love; it’s the method behind the madness that has been turned on its head. Instead of breakneck drum programming being chopped and skewed to the point of absurdity, tracks unfold and ideas incrementally build upon themselves in a way that – while meticulously calculated, no doubt – comes across as warm and inviting. At this point in Funk’s career, and considering his aptitude with his equipment, his decision to record this album solely utilising a modular synthesiser while shirking the use of editing software feels like less of a challenge and more like an act of leisure. You almost get the impression that songs like “Magnificent Stumble v2”, “Goose and Gary v2” and “Health Card10” were recorded in his sleep, which isn’t a complaint given that peering into the mind of Aaron Funk at its most sedate would be quite the curiosity.
Traditional Synthesizer Music
’s rudimentary way of coming to be has an added bonus in that it’s softer on the ears than pretty much any of its predecessors, making the points at which Funk wakes from his slumber all the more palatable. “Slightly Bent Fork Tong v2” and “She Married a Chess Computer in the End” come loaded with jarring synth lines, squelching accents and metallic percussion of the more typical Venetian Snares persuasion, but never do they transgress. Unlike past efforts, this album is able to traverse from one end of the spectrum to the other without over-stepping the bounds of tolerability, be it of either tranquillity or squeamishness. Traditional Synthesizer Music
isn’t an attempt to break what little is left of the mould, then. If anything, it’s an attempt to reconstruct it – one that leaves all the residual cracks plain to see and giving us little choice but to bask in the beauty of their eccentricities.