Amon Tobin – Foley Room
Ninja Tune Records (to be released 3/6/07; pre-purchase available on iTunes)
Though the lush and prolific electronic producer and DJ Amon Tobin hasn’t released an official self-billed album since 2002’s Out From Out Where (which was good, but nowhere near Supermodified), you may have heard his music in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, for which he did the entire score. The Brazilian-English Tobin might be best recognized by the uninitiated for “Chocolate Lovely”, which was featured in a Hyundai Santa Fe commercial, and possibly for the incredible, tripped-out acid track “Slowly”, featured in one of the those skateboarding DVDs that probably had Tony Hawk and Bam Margera in it (not a particularly good fit, but I’ll take it any day over cKy). Finally, though, he graces us with his presence with Foley Room, which stays true to his adventurous sense of breaking musical ceilings.
“Bloodstone” was released in January as a single, and is certainly Amon Tobinâ€”it integrates elements of classical, jazz, trip-hop and a bit of Eastern elements for a fantastic track, though I don’t see the appeal that it would have on mainstream listeners unless perhaps it gets featured in Grey’s Anatomy or something. Actually, it might work in House, M.D. during one of Dr. House’s Vicodin relapses where he breaks down and passes out on the floor, especially the part near the middle of the track where it kicks in with Drums Of Death (good to see someone still uses themâ€”I’m looking at you, Josh Davis).
“Esther’s” and “The Killer’s Vanilla” feature heavy reverb and resonating sound samples of everything from motorcycle engines (something that he’s done before, though doesn’t get old somehow) to pipe organs, accompanied by harsh yet compelling drum beats. “Keep Your Distance” brings back the Eastern elements, with noted sitar and cymbals, and is something to which Sun Ra would give a psychedelic nod. Other tracks, like “Ever Falling” and “At the End of the Day” sound like some sort of screwed-and-chopped outtakes from the soundtrack to South Pacific or The King and I. Fantastic push.
Some tracks, though, like “Kitchen Sink” and the title track, are straight-up noise music, and while this is something that many people enjoy, given the placement in-between much more substantial and deep tracks, they tend to get lost or end up seeming boring. Luckily they are outnumbered by many more, much better and meatier tracks.
And I know that I keep in ripping on Josh Davis for sucking it up with The Outsider, but instead of hanging out with E-40 and Keak Da Sneak, perhaps he could have made a new friend in Amon Tobin. With what Shadow had previously done, and adding in some of the noise and reverb elements that Tobin uses (as heard in “Keep Your Distance” and “BIg Furry Head”, in which he samples himself belching and makes it work), we could have had a much better album there.
But back to this album… Amon Tobin is back with a vengeance, and luckily he didn’t fall into the trap that many electronic artists have, in which they find it obligatory to feature a different mediocre singer or rapper on every track. Cameos are passÃ©, unless you’re The Chemical Brothers. With its quirky mix of classical, jazz, f*cked-up samples and noise, Foley Room shows that when done right, the art of collage is not limited to visual.