Daniel Lanois and Venetian Snares shared the stage at the Great Hall for an intimate sold out show last night (May 31), the first time since announcing their forthcoming collaborative album in March. Though the ambient opening set from singer-songwriter Joanne Pollock seemed a perfect primer for a quaint Tuesday evening at the Queen West venue, it was only the calm before the analog storm that followed.
Venetian Snares, aka Aaron Funk, took a seat onstage surrounded by an array of analog machines. Daniel Lanois joined with his guitar laid across a table, and routed through an assortment of pedals — an arrangement that left his playing more closely resembling that of a piano than a stringed instrument.
On pedal steel, the Canadian record producer and guitarist offered a melodic counterpart to Funk's spastic textural sputters. Lanois' entire body moved in response to the melodies he devised on the spot, to which Funk would retaliate with erratic drum patterns and relentless, commanding bass tones.
With a cigarette pursed between his lips, power noise filled the room. The percussion was massive, and was powerful enough that with every boom, it maintained a chokehold over the audience. Strobing red and blue lights created an apocalyptic dance floor, soundtracked by the dystopian rhythms of Funk's drum machines that contrasted nicely with the wistful expressions of Lanois' guitar.
Though the back and forth exchange between Lanois and Funk was seemingly improvised, the pair occasionally made eye contact with one another, wordlessly gesturing at the next progression in their lofty soundscapes. Funk's restless knob-turning was that of a mad scientist; the audience had been invited tonight to look in on a laboratory of synthesized sounds, and it was as fascinating as it was visceral.
There were few members of the audience that knew how to move to the erratic rhythms, signature to Venetian Snares' sound, but that didn't matter. Harmonically and physically in sync, the explorative performances delivered by both members made clear that this show was a two-hour homage to the respective instruments that clearly inspired these musicians to take the stage in the first place.