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A Passage to India
Amon Tobin: Out From Out Where
Ninja Tune, 2002
Posted: December 10,
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
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.
Shaking Through link partner Marc Weidenbaum has conducted
three informative and entertaining interviews with Tobin (1997,
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