On paper, the combination of Daniel Lanois—legendary producer of The Joshua Tree and Time Out of Mind—and Venetian Snares (née Aaron Funk)—the prolific breakcore artist—shouldn’t work. The two artists stand at opposite sides of instrumental music: one forging a name for himself creating ambient guitar soundscapes, and the other for making countless hours of harsh and challenging electronic work that can be an acquired taste for some. Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois comes four years after the duo began working and performing together, and the result feels somewhat unlike your typical collaborative release; rather than being a melting pot of ideas, it’s a salad bowl: it’s all mixed together, but all of the pieces are still incredibly distinct.

Over the course of the album, Lanois and Funk don’t so much blend their aesthetics as they throw them together, fully intact, to see what happens. It’s messy, but Lanois and Funk are talented enough to pull this off surprisingly well. They perform a strange dance, where the impulses of each artist move around each other, sometimes with one ceding the spotlight to the other, other times letting their sounds coil around each other. Lanois’ dreamlike and drone-like textures serve as a throughline for these eight songs, with Funk’s skittering breakbeats surging in to propel each track forward. Opener “Mag11 P82” doesn’t introduce the concept of a beat until almost halfway through, gently signaling the arrival of Funk just 30 seconds later, and when he arrives, he’s still pretty subdued, though that will quickly change. Lanois’ pensive guitar work lulls you into a false sense of security constantly here, only for that calm to be disrupted by aggressive skitterbeats, almost feeling like a calm sea interrupted by a towering rogue wave.

The moments on the album where the two feel more collaborative, however, are some of the best moments. The brief “HpShk5050 P127” is a sub-three-minute proof of concept for how well the two work together, with Funk dialing back his brand of noise to pair perfectly with the darker tones of Lanois’ contribution to the track. It’s easy to get drawn into the hard-hitting beats of the collaboration, but when listening intently to both sides, a conversation emerges: Lanois’ Brian Eno-like spaces serving as a respite for the maelstrom, there to remind you of the potential for calm that lies underneath. Each song takes a different approach to this, from the nine-minute quasi-assault of “United P92” (a song that is the album’s strongest) to the final two tracks, “Night MXCMPV1P74” and “Ophelius 1stP118,” with Funk dialing it back enough that Lanois’ gorgeous work shines through. The progression of the album is such that it almost feels like Lanois is letting Funk wear himself out, only to take center-stage as the album winds down.

At just half an hour long, Snares x Lanois is a short but pleasant journey, and while it’s easy to want more, it’s hard to imagine being able to maintain focus on both artists’ contributions at once—the form forces you to focus on one at a time, as their styles are so disparate. That disconnect makes it difficult to grab hold of anything for very long, which can also be disorienting and, frankly, hard to connect with. If you’re patient, though, Snares x Lanois is a worthy experiment and a breath of fresh air in a genre that focuses too much on blending artists, rather than letting a marriage of aesthetics occur.

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