Texture is by definition a somewhat mysterious thing in music. Ideally when many layers intertwine on record it can be difficult to sort them out as individual voices, and that's exactly where the many become the one. How many? Which? You decide.
Texture has always been a strength of Amon Tobin, Brazilian expatriate and electronic music artist. His music tends to groove along a rich course, making use of accents and changes in instrumentation to fuel forward motion. On Remixes/Collaborations we get to hear those layers broken up and reassembled, both in the "Collaborations" part (the first five tunes) and in "Remixes" (the last four, available on CD but not the 12" EP version of the record).
With Tobin's seamless fusions broken up, you can tell how he puts the pieces together. The Bonobo collaboration ("I'll Have the Waldorf Salad") gradually brings in a heavy drum-n-bass influence, rippling cascades of snare and cymbal hits supporting alternating cycles, broken occasionally by moody interludes. Tobin seems to come through in the thickly reverberant cushion upon which the beat resides, effortless harmonies coloring the flow, and the simplified orchstration of the interludes. Bonobo, as is his custom of late, digs the jam. A nice synergy.
Rounding out the collaborations, P-Love brings a heavy hip-hop element (in the form of abundant scratching and a heavy backbeat) to Tobin's dark, mysterious soundscapes. Steinski focuses on echo as a tool to reinforce the beat, which collapses into odd vocal samples and hard core drum-n-bass. And so on.
"Verbal" was the best track on Out From Out Where, Amon Tobin's last release. Its wacky synth rap twisted outer sound into a strangely funky hip hop fusion. And so it's only appropriate for Prefuse 73 to convolute and fracture it into scratchy bits and pieces on his "Dipped Escalade Mix." Kid 606 takes a break from his usual incessant aural frustration to hit the beat heavy and create a tossed salad to ride on top. Topo Giglo assembles a somewhat dull house feel (take that to the clubs, please) and Boom Bip goes atmospheric with reverberant effects.
Like any multiple-artist collaboration, this one has its high and low points. Those tend to reflect the interests and expectations of the listener, so it's hard to say exactly which and where. For me, the dance-oriented pieces (for example, Topo Giglo's remix) fall flat into repetition. But others would probably disagree, which is just fine. All in all, Remixes/Collaborations does have a lot to offer both in terms of straight-up listening pleasure and a more intellectual understanding of how Amon Tobin works. Add a "Verbal" video and outer space liner art and you're all set.
Visit Ninja Tune and Amon Tobin on the web for more information and sound samples.
Personnel: Kid Koala, Bonobo, P-Love, Steinski, Double Click, Prefuse 73, Kid 606, Boom Bip, Topo Gigio.