Volume 96, Issue 95
Friday, March 28, 2003

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Tobin reinvents jungle vibes

By Benjamin Freedman
Gazette Staff

Speaking with a smooth Brighton accent, Amon Tobin remembers this past New Year's Eve in Montreal.

"It was a great club and it got crazy. Jungle is still the most powerful music to dance to. The first time I went to the club and heard jungle, I felt my chest rumble around. It's a physical thing – a total body experience. You can step away from the melodies, and find the driving rhythm."

Despite a clear fondness for fast, pounding beats, Tobin's hyperkinetic jungle style has achieved its distinguished status by incorporating a vast network of big band samples and Bollywood melodies. His latest album, Out from Out Where, has been widely acclaimed in both underground and mainstream publications as his best work yet.

Oddly enough, Tobin dropped the drum and bass sound altogether for the album, choosing instead orchestral walls, spitfire beat programming and Brazilian percussion. It is a cinematic twist to the average dancehall/chillout hybrid album, and even though the sound is dense, the influences are easily discerned.

"I used to be really into jazz because melding a solid flute line with the right beat could be beautiful," Tobin explains. Lately, though, I've been listening to lots of Prague psychedelic music from the 1950s to the 1980s. It's really gratifying to pull a bunch of different sounds together into something semi-coherent."

Both Tobin's live sets and produced records embody the wildly experimental and extravagant sound of an individual fascinated by the freedom of being on the cutting edge of technology.

In short, Tobin gets off on testing limits.

As we speak, he is playing with one of his new toys: the os10 keybase – which apparently offers "new ways to screw around with audio," according to Tobin.

"Normally, [the live shows are] a showcase of my own material. I use FinalScratch to try and incorporate lots of single elements from different tracks. Like, I'll play the trumpet from one and the beat from another to remix."

He is not confined to the auditory medium either. Though Tobin realizes the focus is on the sound, his background in photography drives him to attempt avant-garde visual effects to enhance the club's vibe.

"Recently in the UK, I was trying things out with these wacky 3D environments," Tobin explains. "I like the idea of being incorporated into a deeper visual setup. They were doing this thing with a mesh screen and a backdrop screen behind me, but when it comes on, the image is seen on the front and back. I was enmeshed between."

Tobin is a true master of live sample deconstruction and reconstruction and, unlike some DJs, he is proud to become an afterthought to the sound.

"As new technology becomes available, and I delve into different genres, I get spurred on," he says.

Though the brain/stomach chemistry will likely be different tomorrow night at Call the Office, the fun will probably closely parallel that New Year's Eve in Montreal. The basslines will be hard, the dance floor will shake and, as Tobin jokes, "Hopefully, people will stay."


Amon Tobin plays at Call the Office this Saturday, with opening acts Sixtoo and Wig. Tickets are $16 in advance and $20 at the door.


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2002 THE GAZETTE