In terms of emails asking me when I'm going to review certain artists, strangely enough the outright winner would have to be Amon Tobin. It's not that I've never heard of him or don't enjoy his albums (quite the contrary), but for some reason or another, I've just never gotten around to covering one of his releases, and while it's no big deal for those who have already heard him, if I can enlighten one more person with a good review, then I've done my job.
After releasing his groundbreaking Bricolage and Permutation discs, as well as several other EPs and singles, Tobin dropped Supermodified last year and showed that he was moving in some slightly different directions. Easing back a bit on the spazzy freak rhythm programming and hyper-jazz programming, his newest release takes a slightly more cinematic tone, but is still some of the downright thickest and slickest electronic music you'll hear.
Starting out with a one-two punch that should have nearly anyone drooling, the disc opens with the super-funky "Get Your Snack On." Rolling along with sputtering breakbeats underpinned by an even juicier lowend, everything from grimy-ass organs and horns are sampled and served up in a thick audio stew in which something is always slightly changing and evolving. Of course, if that track doesn't get under your skin, Tobin follows up right on the heels with "Four Ton Mantis," (from an EP by the same name) that starts out with some haunting flute sounds and low end before sliding into yet another juicy groove. About a minute in, a swaggering piano line comes in as everything goes quiet, then all hell breaks loose again as the beat comes back and the track shambles through to the end.
After "Slowly" brings things down a bit with a more laid-back vibe, "Marine Machines" again comes back strong, with all kinds of epic orchestra sounds battling it out in the belly of a whale while a blubbery beat again slides back and forth. Those fearing a complete lack of brutal breakbeats look no further than "Golfer Vs. Boxer," though. A haunting chorus adds an eerie edge to the track while absolutely frantic beats race along underneath and bass pulses fill your head even more. On "Precursor," Tobin teams up with Quadraceptor (who adds high-velocity beatbox action) for a super wacky jazz number that hiccups and stutters along for one of the more 'fun' tracks that he's ever done.
"Chocolate Jockey" is one of the most cinematic-sounding tracks that Tobin has ever done, and listening to it makes me wonder why someone already doesn't get this guy to work on a movie. Mixing samba beats, lush strings, and smart beats, he could create one of the more intense aural backdrops out there (and already has 3-times over). If the Wachowskis (The Matrix) were half as inventive in terms of their use of sound as they were visually, they could drop the mainstream gloss from their last film and up it yet another level with a sound composer like Tobin in place. With his mixes of old and new, classic and electronic, there's barely a wrong step on any of his three full-lengths. While Supermodified isn't quite as good as his earlier releases, it's still better than most.