For most people, there are few things better than a decent sleep – insomniacs please look away now. The number of slang terms for the activity alone suggests that many of us regard it as not merely a necessity but also high on the list of pleasurable pursuits. Most strike a workable medium between a Bill Hicks routine (‘I need 8 hours at night… and at least 10 during the day’) and Margaret Thatcher, who it was claimed need only four hours a night so she could spend the remaining twenty
ruining running the country. From my own perspective of someone who’s sneaked in a crafty cat nap at work from time to time, whenever I see particularly prolific people, I always think, ‘Where do they get the time to do all that? Don’t they sleep?’
Aaron Funk fits into the prolific category quite comfortably, having made a minimum of one album a year as Venetian Snares since the start of the millennium – in addition to which during the same period he’s released records under a variety of identities. He does find time to sleep, but his winding down period is not that of relaxing in front of a talk show for half an hour – no, his brain is busy coming up with new musical ideas. So it was that Funk turned this brain activity into a proper project – capturing the moments between wakefulness and sleep.
It’s an interesting concept to say the least – not quite as out there as the Aphex Twin’s lucid dreaming – but the result is possibly not as one might expect. Sleep is not an album full of beatless lullabies, although neither is it full of the chaotic beats and snare rushes that Venetian Snares tends to use. Indeed, it’s quite apparent why Funk dusted down his Last Step moniker one more time as Sleep is much closer to the work he has done previously under that name. In short, Sleep comes over as the offspring of AFX’s Analord series and Richie Hawtin’s early excursions as FUSE. Androids might dream of electric sheep, but Aaron Funk dreams of analogue synths and an old drum machine if the evidence here is anything to go by.
Sleep may have been recorded whilst its creator was nodding off and drifting across to dreamland and back again, but it is both lively and engaging, and one might never make the connection if one didn’t know the backstory, or check the track titles which are mostly related to sleep in some way or another (including the slightly icky “Rohypno”). It’s in contrast to many of his albums as Snares, being consistently solid throughout and – despite the over-arching concept – avoids novelty. There’s nothing deliberately off-kilter here, and it is a successful recreation of an early analogue techno album. It seems that, rather than letting his imagine go wild, Funk works well within certain parameters of restraint – Sleep is one of his better albums and might act as a salve to those scarred by an average Snares release. To borrow a phrase, don’t sleep on Sleep. (Jeremy Bye)