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A Passage to India

 

Amon Tobin: Out From Out Where

Ninja Tune, 2002

Rating: 4.3

 

 

Posted: December 10, 2002

By Laurence Station

Out from Out Where finds Brazilian-born, Montreal-based electronic sound designer Amon Tobin moving further away from the drum'n'bass/jungle-meets-Brazilian-Jazz rhythm method he developed in the late '90s toward a more stark, cinematic and brooding style. The evolution from the jungle-jazz fusion of 1997's Bricolage to 1998's Permutation culminated with 2000's stellar Supermodified, where Tobin's disparate sonic elements came together in a near-seamless blend of innovation and artifice.

Tobin's greatest strength lies in his uncanny ability to shape and orchestrate the various samples at his disposal in an interesting and unique manner. Sticking with the cinematic analogy, he can best be likened to a film editor who, rather than splicing individual cells together, further subdivides the actual frames, and then rearranges the disconnected snippets in incredibly abstract yet oddly familiar ways.

Out from Out Where retains some of Tobin's signature techniques (rapid cut and paste, an emphasis on heavy bass, and a deliberate slow-fast equilibrium), but shifts his focus and inspiration to a more Eastern, rather than Western, outlook; specifically, the India of Bollywood film extravaganzas. Tobin paints a romantic, dangerous and exotic East found only on the silver screen, celebrating the Indian film industry's penchant for high melodrama, bright colors, and life-or-death consequences that usually ends favorably for the protagonist by the time the closing credits roll.

"Triple Science" warps a straight jungle rhythm as if it were a beam of light bouncing off of highly reflective metallic walls, a cleverly interwoven vocal sample adding to the propulsive, high-energy effect. "Searchers" employs eerie percussion and haunting flute to suggest travel through terra incognita, offering unexpected lurches and bows, a sound collage of shifting sands and uncertain outcomes. "El Wraith" expands on that mood, drawing the listener deeper into the forbidding unknown with murky Eastern tones processed through discrete electronic filters -- blending seamlessly with "Proper Hoodidge," to serve as a climax of sorts before "Mighty Micro People" closes the album with a softer, less abrasive comedown.

Other highlights include the quasi-psychedelic "Rosies," sporting a confident, relentless big beat, and "Cosmo Retro Intro Outro," all techno stutter-stop programming, like a club track specifically designed for overly anxious and frantic people who can rave all night. Tobin's experiments prove less effective on the amusing but slight "Verbal," which reduces a rapper's flow to micro-syllabic chop suey, and "Chronic Tronic," which starts with a promising metronomic beat before stalling, turning in on itself like the Ouroboros devouring its own tail.

Overall, though, Out from Out Where is a dense, engaging and restless adventure of the mind, and, while it might not surpass the achievement of Tobin's Supermodified, it proves to be an equal, if considerably more idiosyncratic, creation.

 
Disquieting Thoughts
Shaking Through link partner Marc Weidenbaum has conducted three informative and entertaining interviews with Tobin (1997, 1998, and this year) for Disquiet.com.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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