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Amon Tobin - Out From Out Where

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Artist: Amon Tobin

Album: Out From Out Where

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Oct. 14, 2002

Out From Out Where, the fourth full-length from DJ/composer Amon Tobin, finds Tobin in a most unenvious position. Tobin’s production over the past five years includes three of the dopest electronic works in recent memory, Bricolage, Permutation, and Supermodified. After three albums, Tobin’s resume rivaled, maybe even exceeded, that of Autechre and Aphex Twin, in regards to composition and ingenuity. Few pieces match the sonic, and symbolic, immensity of “Snakes and Wires” or the adrenaline rush of “Get Your Snack On.” Over the course of his multi-syllabic hybrid-based trilogy, Tobin’s experiments never fell flat. That’s a lot to live up to.

Now, two years post-Supermodified, Tobin presents a new concoction. The title itself, Out From Out Where, is a departure from his past one-word declaratory titles, but the sounds contained within are classic Tobin – for better and for worse.

Out Where suffers from heightened expectations and, strangley enough, predictable ingenuity. For first time Tobin listeners, this album could be a fantastic find. Gattling gun rhythms combined with antiquated string arrangements and jazz snippets make for a seductive stew and Tobin has a refined sense of tempo – freeways bleed seamlessly into dirt roads, then back again almost without notice. The balance of bass, percussion, and etc. is on point. Tobin’s use of organic elements as dressing rather than main course is closer to Supermodified than his first two records. And there’s no question: this is his sound. While Autechre’s music has spawned an army of clones over the past 10 years, no one has dared touch Tobin’s Bohemian cyborg groove.

And that’s just it. Tobin’s sound has stayed true for over five years now. Many of the songs on Out Where would fit nicely on any three of its predecessors. Subtle, but distinct shifts in direction made each of those records memorable for different reasons. It’s tough to tell whether the same can be said for Out Where. Once again, Tobin’s sonic palette remains the same, and this time, the paint is drying up in spots.

The album’s opener “Back From Space” seems like a prologue of sorts, revisiting the high-voltage motor of Supermodified. Spastic jungle beats combined with melodic vibes and Star Wars synths terrorize at dangerously high BPMs. It’s on “Verbal,” the album’s hit, where Tobin feels out new terrain with quantized guitar strums and chopped-up vocals similar to Supermodified’s “Precursor” with Quadraceptor. The acoustic guitar is a new admonishment for Tobin, but probably not for most listeners. MC Decimal R.’s scrambled-egg rapping is catchy, but Prefuse 73 cracked that yolk last year on Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives. And the Black and Decker bass line unfortunately sounds exactly like Death in Vegas’ “Dirt,” a riot-inducing joint in its own right, but the effect is lessened considerably on second reference.

The album hits its stride on “Hey Blondie,” where Tobin slips into an off-balance slo-mo groove juiced by syncopated organ riffs. “Rosies” turns up the volume a bit, but the pace remains spacial, allowing the sounds more room to boogie. “Proper Hoodidge” is another highlight that shuns brawn and embraces the yawn.

Out From Out Where is by no means a failure. When Tobin allows his signature style room to resonate in the downtempo vein, magic can occur. The lunatic style of his drill ‘n’ bass, however, only obfuscates his deft attention to detail. When examined in the context of Tobin’s discography, Out From Out Where falls a bit short of expectations, but features enough gems to still land on its feet.

By Otis Hart

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