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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Amon Tobin: Out From Out Where


1) Back From Space; 2) Verbal; 3) Chronic Tronic; 4) Searchers; 5) Hey Blondie; 6) Rosies; 7) Cosmo Retro Intro Outro; 8) Triple Science; 9) El Wraith; 10) Proper Hoodidge; 11) Mighty Micro People.

For his next release, Tobin rather drastically cut down on all the «retro» influences. You still get them, but you have to look for them, and if you didn't know about this guy as the jazz-jungle mix whiz of his generation, you probably wouldn't even know where to begin looking. This must be the reason why some people claim that Out From Out Where works better as a tightly focused, single-purpose, ultra-coherent record. Maybe it does, but to me, that's hardly good news.

The energy and occasional ferocity of Supermodified is still here: the programmed beats conti­nue to impress as a musical equivalent of 32 kinds of Chinese torture involving bamboo sticks, iron bars, and a vast array of other long hard objects. (Check out the innocently titled 'Rosies' for an «Anti-Utopian Industrial Factory, Advanced Level 3» kind of feeling). But the diversity is all but gone. The few «live» samples that are still distinguishable are straightforwardly treated as no­thing but samples, subjugated to the jungle rhythms and additional electronic loops; and the whole record is his most mechanized, industrialized bunch of compositions so far.

«Notable» points would include the «novelty» number 'Verbal (Featuring MC Decimal R.)', an odd (possibly ironic) take on hip-hop, in which a chipmunkified «electronic DJ» raps incom­pre­hen­­sibly over acoustic guitar, industrial beats, and stoned pseudo-Eastern backing vocals; 'Triple Science', an attempt to beat Aphex Twin at Star Force by shooting fifty instead of five enemies per second (warning: never play this loud in headphones unless you're the «you haven't lived un­til you have tried out everything» type); and the grand epic number 'Searchers', which, at times, sounds like The Moody Blues gone completely electronic — intergalactic star travel with string-imitating synth tones that sometimes swoop up into the sky like they used to do it way back when, with the aid of a Mellotron.

Out of the «non-notable» points, 'Hey Blondie' is sort of OK, an electronic equivalent of a gloo­my blues dirge, sometimes breaking out in minor key piano sonata convulsions; 'Proper Hoodi­dge' is the younger, slightly more inane brother of 'Marine Machines', whose main hook is a repe­titive whale-style moan; and 'Mighty Micro People' closes off the entire experience with a whiny guitar sample, to emphasize the hopelessness of it all. In fact, a thorough lack of optimism and complete cheerlessness are the record's major characteristics. Not that Tobin was ever known for making happy music, but on here he may be crossing the line from «creepy» to «depressing», and not just because the compositions are getting worse.

It isn't a «thumbs» down as such, but I would say it's definitely a «step» down. Hardcore fans will not notice it, though, because whoever has been granted the ability to happily lose oneself in the generic world of repetitive samples and trickily programmed percussion, will find plenty of stuff to enjoy. Me, I can only really appreciate this stuff when I smell special, and it grieves me to have found such a strong decline of «special» on Out From Out Where from Supermodified.

Check "Out From Out Where" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Out From Out Where" (MP3) on Amazon

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