Record label: Ninja Tune (UK)
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 16 May 2000

Amon Tobin and the Bouncing Popcorn

"I gather it might especially appeal to someone who's 'visual/cinematic.' And I guess that would include a whole lot of us 'fellow Americans' and a lot o' earth folk in general, considering the great influence the U.S. film and music industries have on much of the planet." - Daniel Carter, referring to The Big Gundown, John Zorn's album of Ennio Morricone's soundtrack music.

So what has that got to do with an Amon Tobin record review I originally agreed to write? Supermodified - yeah, it's on Ninja Tune (like so much else that I've reviewed for the Verge). O.K., you wanna know if I dig it or not, right? No question. It doesn't quite rock the spot, it more kinda pulverizes the spot into sub-atomic musical particles to be dispersed to the solar winds. I agree with others who have said that this would make amazing material for a movie soundtrack. Say the X-Men ran into the Thing and the Incredible Hulk brawling in a Amazonian roadhouse, while Bernard Purdie (oneofthehardest funkdrummersever) and Art Blakey (oneofthehardest jazzdrummersever) were simultaneously having the drum battle of the century. Oh yeah, and there's a string quartet hiding in the corner, bravely sticking it out because they love this...even though it all feels a little out of control. Except it isn't, because Amon Tobin (besides being one of the illest programmers on the "jazz" side of avant drum 'n' bass) is a composer, and everything that he sends up will come down: logically, melodically, gracefully.

This new album actually took me a little while to get with. There's less dependence on the former jazz vibe into spiraling insanity (as on Bricolage and Permutation), with intermittent bits of slow groove deliciousness. There's more in Supermodified - from big beat to rock to funk to '70s Brazilian funk (I picked out samples from keyboardist Eumir Deodato's version of "Also Sprach Zarathrustra" (2001) right away).

So what about this movie soundtrack business? S'been going on for a while. On Ninja Tune, one of the more hyped things to happen last year was the debut of J. Swincoe's Cinematic Orchestra, who are basically a fly jazz band fed through a sampler with style. But this goes back, doesn't it? Back to Theremin synth soundtracks to '50s sci-fi flicks; Close Encounters of the Third Kind with that crazy Arp way of communicating with the aliens; Jan Hammer's Miami Vice theme; Wu-Tang's kung-fu flick fetish...I guess I'm trying to get at the connection between electronic music, jazz, funk, movies and movie composers. It's mainly storytelling.

"Story?! Man, here's the story: listen to the beat, get on the floor and shake that thing!" Which I agree with, except that music is evolving to a point where more IS happening. What was called trip-hop is starting to become a whole new widespread genre of mood-stimulating/beat-exploring/texture-probing/story-telling music. Thank hip-hop for getting us here (and just about every musical genre we've come to in the last 20 years). Look at Prince Paul, who's been telling us stories rather than just slinging beats at us all along. We are coming to the point where genres collide and the traditions of hip-hop and cinema are coming up strong, if infected by other sympathetic styles.

Whew! Hope this stirs the brains. Mine's spinnin'.

{mr. fitz}

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