In typical Blimpy fashion, I’ve had a tendency on my trip to name drop Amon Tobin when discussing music assuming everyone has heard of him, only to learn this is decidedly not the case, so I’ll do my small part here to remedy the situation. Where Prodigy’s Fat of the Land first turned me on to pop, big beat electronica when I was a kid, Amon Tobin’s Supermodified did the same in introducing me to the genre’s more complex and interesting leftfield fringes.
Being born in Brazil and spending part of his childhood in Morocco must have had an influence on his ability to pull in a much more varied percussive style compared to a lot of prominent electronic artists at the turn of the 21st century. Signed to England’s Ninja Tune label which was famous for chill and trip hop artists, Tobin was picked up after his debut work under the moniker Cujo and immediately blew most of the label’s artists out of the water with his unique style. Bricolage, his first album as Amon Tobin, fused jazz samples with drum n bass and heavy beats for a sound all his own. By the time he released his third album Supermodified, this aesthetic was solidified and immediately recognizable as the Amon Tobin sound, but much more accessible, catchy and relying more on samples of his own creation.
The opening track Get Your Snack On sets the tone for what’s to come with its intricate interplays of percussion not in a straight up 4/4, layered over murky atmospherics that prevent the entire album from ever sounding too clinical or over-produced. The baseline shifts in and out to make room for the growth of the jazz flute samples and distorted hi hat and organ. The second song Four Ton Mantis retains a lot of the same vibe, if a little bit slowed down, with more oomph while leaning on the usage of the famous hip hop sample Hall of the Mad Mountain King.
Perhaps one of my favourite songs from the album, or Amon Tobin in general, or even the entire melodic chill electronic scene of a decade ago comes on the third track Slowly. For Tobin it’s a slight throwback relying heavily on borrowed strings and jittery piano samples, but the way it’s reassembled is nothing short of gripping and emotional. For anyone who’s never listened to the man before, if you aren’t taken after these three songs, just forget it.
I won’t lie and not tell you the middle of the album gets a lot more experimental and isn’t something I would sit down and listen to as much, but its nonetheless worthwhile to hear Tobin try his hand at both a more grating hardcore style and a melodramatic relaxed vibe on successive tracks. It gets a bit spastic, but once Saboteur regrounds the listener, Chocolate Lovely transmits them back into the sublime. I’m a sucker for sound in and of itself and this one is syrupy and positively sings.
Basically, I don’t know an electronic artist whose entire catalog I enjoy as much as Amon Tobin. From the jazz flourishes of Bricolage, to the electronic relaxed innovation of Supermodified, to one of the best live mixes of all time in Solid Steel, to the cinematic entirely self-sampled atmospherics of Foley Room, to the hardcore hip hop of Two Fingers, if you enjoy this album and haven’t listened to the man before, you’ve got a long and enjoyable road ahead of you.
You can pick up this album at Amazon
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