Amon Tobin
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Adventures in Foam , 7/10
Bricolage , 8.5/10
Permutation , 6.5/10
Supermodified , 6.5/10
Out From Out Where , 7.5/10
Verbal Remixes & Collaborations (2003), 3/10
Solid Steel (2004), 2/10
Chaos Theory: Splinter Cell 3 (2005), 4/10
The Foley Room (2007) , 6/10
Two Fingers: Two Fingers (2009), 5/10
ISAM (2011), 6.5/10
Two Fingers: Stunt Rhythms (2012) , 4/10
Links:

Summary.
Amon Tobin well impersonated the classical composer in the hip-hop age. Instead of composing symphonies for orchestras, Tobin glued together sonic snippets using electronic and digital equipment. Adventures in Foam (1996), released under the moniker Cujo, and especially his aesthetic manifesto and masterpiece, Bricolage (1997), unified classical, jazz, rock and dance music in a genre and style that was universal. Tobin warped the distinctive timbres of instruments to produce new kinds of instruments, and then wove them into an organic flow of sound. Tobin kept refining his art of producing amazingly sophisticated and seamless puzzles on Permutation (1998), Supermodified (2000) and, best of his second phase, Out From Out Where (2002). Once he had exhausted the possibilities of instruments and samples, Tobin turned to found sounds and field recordings as the sources for The Foley Room (2007), without basically changing style. In effect, Tobin carried out several philosophical debates at once (e.g., on the irrelevance of the message, on the irrelevance of time), while entertaining his audience with catchy numbers of an extra-terrestrial music hall. Tobin was indirectly debating on the meaning of music itself, on the nature of composition, on the viability of communication, on the ultimate constituents of sound. His neglect of form was a new kind of form, a form that had reduced form to the annihilation of form. The dualism of content versus form was resolved by the post-modernists as a non-issue: Tobin redefined it as a process, a process of form-abatement by which content is created, as if content and form were the same substance, and more of one meant less of the other one.  Not surprisingly, this logic took him to ISAM (2011), which was basically an elegant noise collage.


Full bio.
Amon Tobin, born in Brazil but active in London, is a classical composer of the hip-hop age. Instead of composing symphonies for orchestras, Tobin glues together sonic snippets using electronic equipment.

Toby debuted the moniker Cujo on the album Adventures in Foam (Ninjatune, 1996). Hip-hop is the main influence in Northstar and Sighting, but the rhythmic element (staccato beats and jazzy basslines) is always reined in to let the superimposed (and extremely artificial) sounds flow naturally. Tracks such as the fibrillating Cat People and the suave A Vida filter hip-hop so as to leave only a swampy carpet of beats, apparently for the only purpose of transforming the continuum of melodic music into a discrete pulsating grid. Languid piano notes and Brazilian polyrhythms washed away any debris of hip-hop from The Brazilianaire, the sweetest moment of the album.
Ornette Coleman's bass-driven funk is another influence, and, while few tracks sound like funk, that praxis is often encountered in Cujo's songs. Whichever the method, shimmering secretions such as Traffic (the album's second standout), the torrential percussion and piano feast The Sequel, Break Charmer and Fat Ass Joint build a bridge between jazz and drum'n'bass. Even the least eventful creations, such as The Light and Paris Straitham excel at weaving eerie atmospheres (possibly transposing the art of Duan Eddy and the Ventures to the era of drum'n'bass). out of convoluted rhythms and barely hinted sounds. The closing six-minute jungle/electronica pastiche Cruzer sums up the album, pointing to a direction of eclectic beats, jazzy nuances and somber climaxes.

The singles Creatures, Mission, Chomp Samba marked further progress in his compositional technique, and led to the monumental Bricolage (Ninjatune, 1997), credited to Amon Tobin. The album title is a manifesto of sample-based collage-oriented abstract hip-hop composition, along the lines of DJ Shadow's work. Several tracks revisit the magic of the previous album, adding a slightly stronger psychedelic/oneiric quality.
A loud bass line opens Stoney Street, mimicking a rhythm and blues theme. The surface of the song is a dialogue between a jazz trumpet and decadent violins, and it keeps merely looping, one voice alternating to the other, each voice merely repeating its tune. The backdrop for the song is hyper-busy drumming. A new structure arises in which the "leitmotiv" is assigned to the bass, while the other instruments simply embellish the atmosphere, although it is the other instruments that are actually laid out in the front.
Easy Muffin is hypnotic and dreamy, as different weeds alternate at uttering simple melodic patterns, but never reaching the consistency of a refrain, while the drum machines erect a bush of impenetrable beats.
Creatures is another highlight, a cloud of ghostly free-form noises segueing a geometric shower of piano notes over machine-gun beats, while a grotesque and languid trumpet lingers by.
The hawaian guitar of Yasawas, the cool-jazz trumpet of The New York Editor, the romantic sax line of The Nasty, are all counterposed and juxtaposed to disorienting textures, and revitalized by a process of musical introspection. Each track becomes a study in counterpoint, a chamber piece for a small number of instruments that trade nuance.
In Chomp Samba it is the frantic, tribal rhythm itself to be subjected to such a treatment, and the result is a futuristic ode to primal insticts.
Tobin's studies on timbre should also not be overlooked. The apparently unassuming Deficus is actually a new kind of symphony. Tobin warps the distinctive tone of an instrument to produce a new kind of instrument, and then weaves a few of them (a bee-like violin, a distorted bass, UFO-sounding flutes) into an organic flow of sound. It is, in fact, one of the most significant innovations since Beethoven added a choir to a symphony.
Dream Sequence exploits that techique to lay all sorts of bridges between genres, as the tones mimick country and raga, while its essence is kosmische musik.
Needless to say, jazz fuels and dresses these compositions. However, Tobin does to jazz what Picasso did to impressionism: it uses only discrete fragments of the image to reconstruct the whole. Furthermore, it is never the only or main element. For example, the sax solo of Wires And Snakes coexists with industrial metronomic pulses and with soothing ambient waves of electronics.
The jazz feeling is pervasive throughout One Small Step, and the choppy bossanova of One Day In My Garden is the only regular, hummable, linear song on the album. They are both anomalies for Tobin.
With this album, Tobin unified classical, jazz, rock and dance music in a genre and style that is universal.

The concept of Permutation (Ninjatune, 1998) may not have been groundbreaking anymore, but the painstaking care with which Tobin assembled and warped snippets from archaic Big Band records of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa was comparable to a Sistine Chapel of beat-based music. Tracks such as Like Regular Chickens (which, incidentally, references David Lynch's film "Eraserhead") or Reanimator were all about acrobatic drumming convulsions. Bridge was more explicit in quoting its sources, loud drumming and soulful melodies delivering a forceful message of both nostalgia and futurism. Switch, perhaps the most elegant piece on the album, was equally effective in recreating the vintage mood of the "jazz age". Some of the slower tracks allowed room for exotic accents (the Latin Sordid, the exotic flute line in Nightlife, the bossanova-ish Nova) and a darker atmosphere. Alas, too many tracks seem to meander pointlessly around a good idea. Even when the idea is good, as in People Like Frank (that quotes Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack for David Lynch's "Blue Velvet") or Toys (that mimicks the cling-clang of mechanical toys), it hardly justifies six minutes of random beats. The longest one, Fast Eddie, tried to bridge the futuristic dimension (the galloping breakbeats) and the noir dimension (the slower melodic passages) but only succeeded in parading Tobin's studio skills.
This time the bridge wasn't so much between jazz and drum'n'bass as between two distant ages. The subject was time, not style.

Tobin kept refining his art of sophisticated and seamless puzzles on Supermodified (Ninjatune, 2000). The intricate Get Your Snack On (funk guitar, jazz flute, soul organ, exotic saxophone, etc etc) and Golfer versus Boxer represent the equivalent of baroque art in the sampling world, and harken back to the original hyper-kinetic Cujo program. However, the rhythmic spectrum has broadened considerably from the early days: Four Ton Mantis maximizes rhythmic attack, Marine Machines toys with industrial metronomy, Precursor liquefies the beats to the point that they sound like Morton Subotnick's electronics, the seven-minute locomotive Rhino Jockey is oriented towards the raves. At the same time an introspective and somewhat obscure strain has penetrated the fabric of Tobin's music: the tenderly noir Slowly, the liquid downtempo Deo, the lazily Brazilian Saboteur. Most affecting is perhaps Chocolate Lovely, a pensive jazzy theme floating in a lattice of restrained beats.

Out From Out Where (Ninja Tune, 2002) marks another peak of creativity. Tobin's android treatment of jungle is the quintessence of the trans-cultural. Witness how he blends minimalist concerto, Chinese ballet and Middle-eastern ceremony in a tricky novelty such as Proper Hoodidge. His artsy manipulations of jungle music would be nothing new, but his dressing for Back From Space (a disorienting piano sample of Debussy's Clair de Lune and chiming bells that drowns the beat fury into the equivalent of a Christmas music-box and galactic drones), Chronic Tronic (a breathtaking beat symphony, a demented clockwork that redefines the temporal coordinate, perhaps Tobin's statement on the irrelevance of tempo), El Wraith (an exotic fantasia that runs the gamut from Japanese temple music to from intoxicated hindu processions to symphonic fanfare to dub reverbs), and Verbal (a vocal track over chunky beats in which the frantic rapper is slowly decomposed until he becomes only an alien signal, perhaps Tobin's statement on the irrelevance of the message), show his perverted genius still progressing towards ever more daring abstractions. Searchers is another peak of unbridled imagination: a chaotic crescendo of strings (two separate samples of string orchestras), drums, bells, cheeping electronics, warped lyric-less vocals and middle-eastern flute.
The noisy sci-fi vignette Triple Science, with machine-gun beats worthy of grindcore, the marching robots of Rosies, the simulation of exotic dancing of Cosmo Retro Intro Outro, the atmospheric jazz shuffle of Hey Blondie, that sounds like an instrumental remix of a Pink Floyd track from Dark Side of the Moon, emanate from the same, unfocused center. The album's closer, Mighty Micro People, that dumps a gentle melodic theme inside a confused container with a piano that echoes tv-series music and the electronic simulation of a shy quavering voice, is perhaps a tribute to himself.
It appears that Tobin is carrying out several philosophical debates at once, while entertaining his audience with catchy numbers of an extra-terrestrial music hall. Tobin is debating on the meaning of music itself, on the nature of composition, on the viability of communication, on the ultimate constituents of sound. His neglect for form is a new kind of form, a form that has reduced form to the annihilation of form. The dualism of content versus form was resolved by the post-modernists as a non-issue: Tobin redefines it as a process, a process of form-abatement by which content is created, as if content and form were the same substance, and more of one means less of the other one.
Tobin's music is also unique in evoking a broad range of moods, from witty amusement to sheer paranoia (and sometimes within the same track). They are all facets of the same existential experience.

After the mediocre Verbal Remixes & Collaborations (NinjaTune, 2003) and the awful live dj set Solid Steel (Ninja Tune, 2004), Tobin worked on Tom Clancy's Chaos Theory: Splinter Cell 3 (Ninja Tune, 2005), the soundtrack to a videogame that recycled his cliches with an impressive lack of imagination or variety.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Sergio Fiore) Amon Tobin, nativo del Brasile, ma operante a Londra, è un compositore classico dell'era hip-hop. Invece di comporre opere sinfoniche per orchestre, Tobin, taglia e incolla frammenti fonetici utilizzando stumentazioni elettroniche.

Sotto lo pseudonimo di Cujo, Tobin debutta con l'album Adventures in Foam (Ninjatune, 1996). La musica hip-hop mostra le sue principali influenze in Cat People, Break Charmer e in Sighting , ma gli elementi ritmici (la linea di basso d'impostazione jazzistica distinta dalle percussioni), sono più frequentemente dominati e sovrapposti (in maniera estremamente artificiale) da suoni concrteti della natura.

Un'altra influenza è quella di Ornette Coleman, mentre in qualche brano si indovina un suono funk, specialmente nei temi di CUjo.

Indipendentemente dai metodi seguiti, brillano brani come Traffic, North Star, nei quali viene realizzato una commistione fra il jazz ed il drum'n' bass. L'album si conclude con il connubio jungle-elettronico di Cruzer, che sembra indicare una nuova direzione.

I singoli Creatures, Mission, Chomp Samba , mostrano più lontani i progressi tecnici delle sue composizioni, ma a dar credibilità ad Amon Tobin è il monumentale Bricolage (Ninjatune, 1997).Insieme ai lavori di Dj Shadow, l'album è il manifesto delle composizioni di hip-hop astratto semple-based, collage-oriented. Parecchi brani rivisitano la magia del precedente album, aggiungendovi una snella, ma forte qualità onirivo-psichedelica.

Le fragorose linee di basso che aprono Stoney Street, imitano i temi del rhythm and blues.La base del brano è un dialogo fra trombr jazz e violini decadenti, conservando una mesta follia, con un tema che si alterna all'altro, ed uno che lo ripete mestamente.Meno in superficie s'indovina l'incessante moto percussivo.La nuova struttura sorge dall'assegnazione al basso del leit-motiv, mentre gli altri strumenti sono impegnati semplicemente ad abbellire le atmosfere.La filosofia degli altri strumenti è quella realmente di porsi fuori dalla superficie melodica.

Easy Muffin è ipnotica e sognante, fonde il difficile, con semplici patterns melodici, but never reaching the consistency of a refrain, mentre la drum-machine erige un impenetrabile moto percussivo.

Creatures è un altro culmine, con uno spettrale e minaccioso free-form rumoristico seguito da un geometrico assolo di piano, coadiuvato dal battito della drum-machine, mentre indugia un grottesco e languido trombettìo. La citarra hawaiana di Yasawas, le trombe cool-jazz di The New York Editor, la romantica linea di sax di The Nasty, la contrapposizione e giustapposizione delle disorientanti tessiture, con la rivitalizzazione del processo musicale di introspezione.

Ogni brano diviene uno studio sul contrappunto della musica da camera per un numero esiguo di strumenti that trade nuance.

In Chomp Samba, il frenetico, tribale ritmo è soggetto a tale trattamento il cui risultato è un futuristico istinto primordiale.Tobin compie esperimenti sui timbri ema non li domina.L'apparente modestia di Deficus è in realtà un nuovo genere di sinfonia. Tobi deforma il tono distintivo degli strumenti e produce un nuovo genere di strumento and then weaves a few of them (il suono giulivo dei violini, le distorsioni del basso, i flauti altisonanti), all'interno del fluire del suono. Di fatto, si tratta di una delle massime innovazioni che dai tempi di Beethoven siano starte condotte ai cori e alle sinfonie.

Dream Sequence sfrutta quelle tecniche di tipo diverso per collegare svariati generi, con toni che mimano

la musica country e il raga, mentre si traata essenzialmente di kosmische music.

Inutile affermare che sia il jazz la forma di queste composizioni. Comunque, Tobin sta al jazz come Picasso sta all'impressionismo: utilizza solo brevi frammenti delle immagini per ricostruire il tutto. Inoltre, non utilizza mai il solo elemento più importante. Per esempio, l'assolo di sax di Wires And Snakes coesiste con le pulsazioni metronomiche-industriali e con l'ondeggiare calmo ambientale dell'elettronica.

La sensibilità del jazz pervade da un capo all'altro One Small Step, mentre il bossanova di One Day In My Garden è l'unico brano lineare dell'album. Sono le anomalie di Tobin.

Con questo album, Tobin unifica la musica classica, il jazz, la musica dance in un genere e in uno stile universale.

Permutation (Ninjatune, 1998) non offre le innovazioni del precedente album, principalmente perchè gli esperimenti di commistione fra il jazz e il noise (Bridge, Escape) e la musica esotica e i film noir (Nightlife) were not as groundbreaking.

Tobin mantiene raffinata la sua arte con la produzione sorprendentemente sofisticata degli astuti puzzle Supermodified (Ninjatune, 2000), del quale Get Your Snack, Rhino Jockey e Chocolate Lovely rappresentano l'equivalente dell'arte barocca alle campionature.

Out From Out Where (Ninja Tune, 2002), è molto meno ricco d'inventiva. Tobin realizza jungle (Proper Hoodidge), industrial dance (Chronic Tronic, Cosmo Retro Intro Outro) e nient'altro, ma la preparazione di Back From Space (il campionamento del piano di Debussy nella Sonata Alla Luna con il suono delle campane) e di Verbal (con performance vocali nelle quali polverizza i rapper) sono pezzi nei quali si indovina il geniale stile coraggioso nelle strutture.

I brani noise ((Triple Science, Rosies) evocano eserciti di robot psichedelici. Il crescendo caotico di chitarre, fiati, percussioni, testi senza voce di Searchers, i droni orientaleggianti di El Wraith, il jazz variegato di Hey Blondie, la conclusiva pacata Mighty Micro People, costituiscono un tributo a se stesso, realizzate per se stesso.

Seguirà il mediocre Verbal Remixes & Collaborations (NinjaTune, 2003).

Tobin largely dispensed with the sampling machine and instead opted for found sounds and field recordings as the sources for The Foley Room (Ninja Tune, 2007), the first serious work since the mesmerizing Out From Out Where. The underlying technique did not produce a dramatic change in style though: it was merely a new face of the same puzzle. The imported sounds (like by the motorcycle rumble in Esther's or the water drop in Kitchen Sink or the tiger in Big Furry Head) are perfectly integrated in the overall machine to yield the trademark Tobin sound. Some of these constructions (such as Big Furry Head) create a kind of fluid instrumental music that harkens back to Brian Eno's futuristic vignettes of the 1970s. What has been lost is the drum'n'bass roots, and any ambition to fuse it with jazz. Bloodstone toys with a melancholy klezmer motif on piano and chaotic string melodies. Horsefish indulges in effects of cascading harp notes and little else.
The psychedelic reference is particularly strong. Keep Your Distance echoes the psychedelic ragas of the Sixties. The Killer's Vanilla sounds like distorted soul music that is fed to an uncontrolled freak-out (except that Tobin's freak-outs are driven by breakbeats, not guitars). Always could be a parody of garage-rock.
Having left behind drum'n'bass, allows Tobin to concentrate on what the other half of his art (the collage) but what has been lost is not trivial (his acrobatic symphonies of beats). The notable exceptions are Foley Room, a futuristic sonata for solo digital drumming, and Straight Psyche, a return to the "baroque" breakbeat harmonies of Supermodified.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Federico Morganti)

Per The Foley Room (Ninja Tune, 2007), il primo lavoro di rilievo dai tempi dell’ipnotico Out From Out Where, Tobin fece in gran parte a meno del sistema di sampling, optando al contrario per suoni ready-made e registrazioni sul campo. La tecnica soggiacente non produsse tuttavia un radicale cambiamento di stile: si trattò in sostanza di un nuovo volto del medesimo puzzle. I suoni utilizzati (come il rombo di motocicletta in Esther, la goccia d’acqua in Kitchen Sink o la tigre in Big Furry Head) risultano perfettamente integrati nel meccanismo complessivo in modo da riprodurre il caratteristico sound di Tobin. Alcune di queste costruzioni (come in Big Furry Head) creano una sorta di fluida musica strumentale che attinge alle futuristiche vignette di Brian Eno degli anni ‘70. Ad andare perdute sono le radici drum’n’bass, e con esse ogni ambizione di fonderle col jazz. Bloodstone si diletta con un malinconico motivo klezmer al piano e caotiche melodie per archi. Horsefish indulge nell’effetto delle note d’arpa a cascata e poco altro.

L’elemento psichedelico è particolarmente presente. Keep Your Distance rievoca i raga psichedelici degli anni Sessanta. The Killer's Vanilla suona come musica soul distorta che alimenta un incontrollato freak-out (escluso il fatto che i freak-out di Tobin sono fatti di break beat e non di chitarre). Always potrebbe essere una parodia del garage rock. Essersi lasciato alle spalle il drum’n’bass consente a Tobin di concentrarsi sull’altra metà della sua arte (il collage) nonostante quanto perduto (le acrobatiche sinfonie di beat) non sia certo di poco conto. Eccezioni degne di nota sono Foley Room, una sonata futuristica per drumming digitale, e Straight Psyche, un ritorno alle barocche armonie break beat di Supermodified.

The rap album Two Fingers (Paper Bag, 2009), credited to Two Fingers, was a collaboration between Amon Tobin and drum'n'bass producer Doubleclick (Joe Chapman).

ISAM (2011), a musical experience triggered by a collaboration with visual artist Tessa Farmer, provides for jarring sensory overload. It almost sounds like a compendium of all the tricks that Tobim has learned throughout his career. What it lacks is an emotional core, but in terms of aural splendor and disorienting tactics it beats anything he did before. Journeyman cannot outgrow its elegantly abstract opening (dissonant chamber music, musique concrete, industrial metronomes, glitches) and the syncopated bass riff that should propel it in orbit keeps being interrupted by cascades of noises. This becomes a template for other pieces in which beats cannot emerge because they are overrun by and smothered into random disjointed sounds (Goto 10, Mass & Spring), pieces that resemble tumbleweeds wrapped onto themselves and into barbed wire. The same destructive strategy keeps the ghostly female melodies of Lost & Found, Wooden Toy and especially Dropped From The Sky (potentially a touching elegy) from becoming songs. The return to the aesthetic of the futurists of a century earlier permeates other chaotic collages like Piece Of Paper, Surge, only partially redeemed by the cinematic ambient music of Night Swim. Then out of the blue Kitty Cat sounds like the remix of an old Turtles hit made for a cartoon, but that's just an ephemeral vision. This is the digital equivalent of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

The double-disc Stunt Rhythms (Big Dada, 2012) is a vain display of Tobin's smooth fluid high-tech beatmaking, but little more. However, his understanding of the sience of the "irresistible" is demonstrated in martian dances like Stripe Rhythm. and catchy ditties like Fools Rhythm and 101 South. Unfortunately, they are surrounded by an incredible amount of filler.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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