With its meticulously arranged and aggressive rhythmic patterns, Aaron Funk's work as Venetian Snares is occasionally nightmarish, but too lucid to describe as dreamlike. Poemss, however, his new collaboration on Planet Mu with Toronto-based producer Joanne Pollock, feels like the perfect soundtrack to your late-night, closed-eye adventures. The tracks proceed nonlinearly, sometimes meandering and sometimes static. The voices of both Pollock and Funk appear frequently on their self-titled debut record-- wordlessly and ephemerally in some moments, lyrically in others. The record is imbued with the sort of sedate surrealism (and a similiar vocabulary of synth tones) that characterized the second half of Brian Eno's Before and After Science. Album cut "Moviescapes," which you can listen to below, is one of the more conventionally structured tracks. A waltz without a rhythm, it song lurches back and forth woozily, anchored by Joanne's harmonized vocals. We spoke with Pollock over email about the project-- how it came about, the collaborative process, and the effects of making music at night.
Ad Hoc: How did you first become involved in making electronic music?
Joanne Pollock: I first started making electronic music by myself about three years ago. I didn't really know how to go about it at first, but a few of my friends used different kinds of programs, so I checked some of them out. My first songs were just little experiments, mostly using just the preset instruments that came with whatever I was using. Just finding my way around software, making little baby steps. Eventually, I ended up quitting school, which freed up a lot more time for making music. After a while, I bought some recording equipment and that really advanced my songs a lot!
Ad Hoc: How did you come into contact with Aaron Funk and Planet Mu, and how did you decide to collaborate?
JP: I met Aaron originally at one of his shows in Belgium. We were both Canadian so I guess we started speaking because of that. Two Canadians in a foreign land! It was funny, at that show, whenever someone found out I was from Canada, they would assume that I was friends with Aaron already, because we were from the same country. I guess it would be hard for someone from Belguim to appreciate how far Toronto and Winnipeg are from each other! I ended up going to a few more shows he played, we hung out, shared some music, and he invited me to come visit him in Winnipeg. There wasn't ever a conversation like, "We should collaborate!" It was really just that we were both musicians, and he had a studio in his house, and he was showing me around, and he laid something down and then I did, and then we just kept doing that. It was a natural thing, for two musicians to be making music.
Ad Hoc: How did the name Poemss come about ?
JP: The name Poemss is of significance for us because at the time that I met Aaron, both of us were going through different things emotionally, and I was writing a lot of poetry. I would share these poems with him, and he would share with me, and it would be this nice way of communicating, to express yourself in such a deep way. Poems are neat, because they are personal but abstracted at the same time. In order to write about something, you have to process it and think about it, so by writing about something you are in a way taking yourself out of a situation, even though you may be writing about yourself and personal feelings.
Sometimes these poems would find their way into our songs together, or into our own personal projects. In hindsight, it's possible that the reason we gravitated toward making songs with lyrical content may have had something to do with us both finding inspiration from words at that time.
Ad Hoc: What was the collaborative process like as you began working together?
JP: The collaborative process has been very interesting. I had heard of Aaron's music before, so when we first started making music together, I admit I was intimidated by his experience, which greatly dwarfed my own. At the very beginning, I was sometimes hesitant to voice some of my opinions, in case they were actually really dumb or something. I'm sure many people can relate to an experience like this. Very quickly though, I realized that Aaron is a completely non-judgmental person, and I learned to get over my musical insecurities and become more confident.
It's interesting, because although both Aaron and I had collaborated with others before, we hadn't really done it in this way, where we are essentially building something together, small piece by small piece, and each thing that we put down is working off of something the other made. At first, I was amazed at how I could put something down, and in my mind I would hear what the next piece should be, from my perspective. But he would come to the tune with something completely different and totally surprise me! It is always this incredible experience, hearing him come at something with his musical brain, which is so different from my own. Especially since I am so used to making music on my own, and having complete control of everything, it was this amazing exercise in letting go of my musical ego, letting myself be led into another, completely unanticipated direction. From my experience, if you try and control the music too much in a collaborative environment, you will completely strangle it and it won't be fun anymore.
Ad Hoc: Were there any particular touchstones or influences you had in mind when beginning the project?
JP: In terms of influences, I think Aaron and I were mostly influenced by our emotional environment. Conversations that we may have been having, certain ideas that we were developing. Reflections on our past, that kind of thing. I think that found its way in to the songs a lot.
Ad Hoc: The tracks on Poemss put a lot less emphasis on rhythmic patterns than Venetian Snares or some of your own solo work. Was this a decision that you both made during the making of the record?
JP: Aaron and I didn't make any conscious decisions about how the music should sound. The music sounds different than his project and my project because this is how we sound together. When different people get together, their energies mix with each other in different ways, and this album was the outcome of our musical energies mixing together. Surprising!
Ad Hoc: There’s definitely a dreamlike quality to these tracks-- both in their atmosphere and the non-linearity of some of the song structures. How did this come about?
JP: It's interesting that the combination of our musical energies produces something dreamlike. I think a contributing factor to the dreaminess of our songs had something to do with the time and setting of the music-making. Most of the songs were made through the night, until early in the morning-- that special time. Additionally, we were recording in Aaron's basement, so in the music there is that kind of intimate feeling that comes with recording in your own home.
Poemss is out Feburary 11th on Planet Mu.