Album Reviews

Amon Tobin – Solid Steel Presents

(ninja tune) UK release date: 12 July 2004

Ninja Tune have been doing their own thing for over ten years now and on the strength of Amon Tobin’s offering to the much lauded Solid Steel series, they will happily continue doing so for another decade at least. Beginning in a DJ Shadow cut and scratch style, Tobin gets heavy from the off with his self-produced, brooding Intro and the Bomb The Bass lifting, Chronic Tronic with its Bug Powder Dust styled bassline and eerie twinkle.

The onus is on the beats and the louder the better as DJ Food‘s rocking funk drumtrack Dark Lady rumbles its way into the chipmunk rap of Tipper‘s Twister and then into the expectedly sanity-sapping strains of the Aphex Twin‘s AFX. The beats are chaotic but at times there is structure hiding beneath the din as jazz-like rhythms emerge, trip and fall away and snatches of melody impose themselves then melt away again.

Upping the tension, Facs And Scythe‘s Schmalla creates an edgy, uneasy tone as the beats hammer away at your ribcage and the bass burrows into your bones. We are then plunged even deeper into murky waters with more dark drum and bass chaos courtesy of Tobin’s own Cougar Merkin, Silent Witness & Break‘s oppressive Higher Rates and the thud and squelching bass of T Power‘s Cuba.

The breakneck breakbeats cease just as the sense of an aural bullying begins, giving way to the haunted house guitar of Icarus‘ Moon Palace and the mystical flute-led dream of Night Life. The respite is shortlived, however, as the DJ once again summons the storm clouds and crushes any relaxed overconfidence with the panic-stricken Fear. This is again one of Tobin’s own compositions, as are almost half of the tunes that make up this set.

The clattering breakbeats and cranium cracking sub-bass once again take over, introducing snatches of Mercury motormouth Dizzee Rascal along the way, until we finally get the chance to catch our breath with some of Tobin’s more downtempo grooves. The set closer comes courtesy of The Velvet Underground‘s Venus In Furs, a typically psychedelic, acid-soaked choice but it serves to ease the listener back into the lighter, less moody confines of the real world.

Tobin certainly challenges the ears but he also lays down the gauntlet to the body and makes you want to move proving this is not just ‘intelligent’ head music, its influence extends right down to rouse the arms, legs and feet.

No Warp-style broadening of horizons or change of agenda for Ninja Tune, it would seem, they know what they do best, challenging, leftfield dance, and they seem quite happy sticking to it. This menacing, hurricane ride through doom-laden drum and bass, funk-heavy queasy listening and jazzy breakbeat head-nodders makes for unrelenting and, at times, unforgiving listening. This selection makes you want to keep checking over your shoulder to see what may be lurking in the shadows, which will suit those into the darker side of dance down to the ground, but for some, the paranoia-inducing tirade Tobin dishes out may prove just a little too intense.

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Amon Tobin – Solid Steel Presents