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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Amon Tobin: Recorded Live


1) Intro; 2) Chronic Tronic / Dark Lady (DJ Food); 3) Twister (Tipper); 4) Verbal; 5) Remix By AFX (AFX); 6) Got Numb (Mob Nation); 7) Pressure Cooker (Cherrystones); 8) Soul Soul Soul (As One); 9) Science Fu Part 1 (Danny Breaks); 10) Marine Machines; 11) You's A Jaco Pastorious Looking Motherfucker; 12) Schmalla (Facs & Scythe); 13) Couger Merkin; 14) Higher Rates (Silent Witness & Break); 15) Cuba (Original) (T Power); 16) Moon Palace (Icarus); 17) Reactionary (Controller 7); 18) Nakatali (Topogigio); 19) Yasawas / Night Life / Fear; 20) Es­cape / Deep Impact (Future Prophecies); 21) Spanner In The Worx (Exile); 22) Allergic (Deep Roots); 23) Com­ple­te­ly Real (Suspicious Circumstance); 24) Total Recall (Silent Witness & Break); 25) Sittin Here (Dizzee Rascal); 26) Proper Hoodidge; 27) Four Ton Mantis / Hey Blondie; 28) Venus In Furs (The Velvet Underground).

I will try to be brief on this one. The full name is actually Solid Steel Presents: Amon Tobin Re­­corded Live, and those who are not already «in» with the electronic people will need to know that «Solid Steel» refers to a set of DJ mixes assembled and released by a bunch of guys from the Ninja Tune label (formerly beginning as a radio show, then invading the CD market with a series of albums from around 2001 to around 2007). Since Amon Tobin was signed to Ninja Tune him­self, and since DJ mixing was one of his hobbies, it was only a matter of time before he would get a chance to have an album like that all to himself.

This one was indeed recorded «live», with the aid of a nifty piece of software called Final Scratch that is basically a digital emulator of the vinyl turntable (that is to say, you still play vinyl records on a turntable, but all the encoded and decoded signals are digital), somewhere in Melbourne on Tobin's Australian tour in 2003. The hour-long mix itself consists of just a few Tobin originals (mainly from the last two albums) interspersed with much, much, much stuff from all sorts of big and small names in the world of breakbeats and IDM, most of them from various hip sub-scenes in London and other posh British places.

The record might actually do some good if you want to get a decent, representative sample of who is who in that particular corner of today's market: comparison with the originals shows that Tobin does not tamper too much with the mixes. But if you really need to do that, you are proba­bly like myself — an electronic ignoramus, familiar only with the tip of the iceberg — and then you will probably remain unmoved by most of this rucus. If, on the other side, you are a pro in the business, I really have no idea why you would need to own this in your collection when you would be much happier with the originals.

Essentially, the idea of a «live DJ mix» is stupid. It's one thing to be an actual participant in a club environment, and a whole other thing to want to experience that participation on record. What is it, exactly, that makes this «live» experience in any way different from a regular mix? Muffled crowd cheers in between the brief breaks? Elements of inspired improvisation in the use of the Final Scratch software? Innovative mixing practices that require an actual club environ­ment to reach full effect? Whatever.

For that matter, I wouldn't give a major damn even about studio-recorded DJ mixes, unless they really are highly creative re-mixes (as in Aphex Twin's 26 Mixes For Cash, sort of a true classic of the art). Most of these particular tracks are fairly generic and boring, with all of the «covers» feeling pale and wimpy in the presence of such mighty high originals as 'Four Ton Mantis' and 'Marine Machines'. But there is no need to enjoy the originals anywhere other than the respective original LPs. 'Nuff said.

The album's only joke-type surprise comes at the tail end, with a heavily industrialized reworking of the Velvet Underground's 'Venus In Furs'. Unfortunately, the surprise is unimpressive and un­funny. As is this entire album, completely incompatible with whatever values this particular re­viewer thinks of as valuable — thumbs down.

Check "Recorded Live" (CD) on Amazon

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