As a fellow who releases music at a rather dizzying pace, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with one Aaron Funk. For the past half-decade or so, he’s been putting out nearly two full albums worth of material each year as Venetian Snares while managing to stay fairly consistent along the way. He always dazzles with his programming skills, but on the brilliant Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, he seemed to hit a creative peak that he hasn’t quite managed to capture fully again (although My Downfall certainly came close in places).
It seems that putting out all that work as Venetian Snares wasn’t enough, though, because in 2007 he christened the name Last Step and dropped a self-titled album full of pure analogue goodness that contained some of his usual brushstrokes, but also slid off into some new places as well. 1961 is the second album from Funk under that name and it’s a considerable notch in quality higher than his debut while giving another massive dose of the analogue love.
An initial reference point for many who hear the release will automatically be Aphex Twin, but that’s mainly because the sound palette here is electronic instruments that have the same sort of quirky warmth that Mr. D. James used to coax out of his circuit boards. While it may not seem possible, Funk manages to make things sound even more schizo.
It’s also a hell of a lot more fun than his work as Venetian Snares (and even moreso than the EP and album-length effort from the mysterious The Tuss, who was reported to be Aphex Twin himself), and so the goofy birthday cake cover seems somewhat fitting. This is party music, but you might need to be double-jointed and have some quick-firing synapses to keep up (even though the BPMs here are generally much slower than Funks other pseudonym).
12 songs fly by in just over 50 minutes and oddly enough Funk shows off a remarkably concise side here. There isn’t a lot of extended beat freakouts, as he instead opts for fairly tidy (but still incredibly varied) tracks that shoot through all kinds of scenarios in just over 4 minutes apiece. “My Home Recordings” kicks things off and gives the listener a perfect idea of how things are going to go as stutter-stepping beats fit and start while alternately grinding and squirrely melodies play out. “Haha Waffles” slows down the pace, but keeps the goofy charm firmly intact as a smile-inducing melody sneaks into the mix at just the right time to nudge the choppy beats into a cotton-candy induced headspace.
“Haha Waffles” – Last Step
Every song on the album seems to shift gears about ten different times, but the pitch-skewing “Triple Self Portrait” is a particular gem, speeding up and slowing down in nicely-timed moments that emphasize the live/programmed drum sounds, music box melodies, and squelched acid sounds.
“Triple Self Portrait” – Last Step
In the end, it’s certainly not a Venetian Snares album, but at the same time I can’t imagine fans of work under that name being disappointed. Although there was certainly a glut of this sort of analogue-fueled madness coming down the pike for awhile, it seems that the flow has slowed a bit and Funk has more than capably filled in any gaps with releases like this. Not simply a bunch of beats all strung together with flights of whimsy, there’s a lot of interlocking pieces here that draw you back. Funky and flipped-out at the same time, 1961 is a nice blast of nostalgia with a modern twist.