"Bricolage" released in 1997 is Amon Tobin's first album using his own name (he had previously released "Adventures in Foam" under the name Cujo). A quick flick through the basic album sleeve yields only a definition:
"Bricolage: a process which uses given material, given signifiers (a text, a chord sequence) but which creates from these new signifiers, a new reality which is not given. "
and a quote from the book "The Savage Mind" by Claude Lévi-Strauss:
"The bricoleur may not ever complete his purpose but he always puts something of himself into it".
Sampling is the concept on which the album is created and although using existing melodic and beat samples is not very original, Amon Tobin succeeds in creating something new by processing, cutting up and rearranging a diverse range of sounds. He makes frequent use of jazz and drum n bass samples, but we also have, for example, Hawaiian sounding guitars on "Yasawas" and samba drums on "Chomp samba". The tracks mainly consist of dark drum n bass that emphases beat variation and slower jazzy tracks to add variety.
The album eases you in gently with "Stoney Street" featuring an addictive double bass sample - unfortunately the interest gradually wears thin through overuse. Jazzy drums, strings and sax combine to create a laid back atmosphere but 6 minutes is too long for the limited arrangement.
"Easy Muffin" is even more chilled with a slower beat, memorable rhodes notes and distorted melancholic brass. It is one of the most cohesive tracks on the album and definitely stands out for me - Amon Tobin would go on to hone his skills and create more complex and cohesive arrangements like this in future albums.
Things get really dreamy with the Hawaiian guitar samples in "Yasawas" but I was significantly let down by the lack of progress; the beat gradually builds up but fails to explode and ends up going nowhere, leaving the listener rather frustrated.
We then get 2 drum n bass tracks to wake you out of your stupor, with the samba drum samples in "Chomp samba" working really well to lift an otherwise average track. This idea is used again to great effect on a track in his subsequent "Permutation" album.
The tracks in the middle of the album are the weakest, featuring discordant unmelodic sounds that make for uncomfortable listening. He really starts to lose it with "Bitter & Twisted" which just sounds like a complete incoherent mess. Given the experimetal nature of this album it is inevitable that there will be a few duds - this borders on random noise rather than music.
After this disaster the album stays firnly in drum n bass territory until the end. My favourite track on the album by far is the rather demented and humorous "One Day In My Garden". It starts off with cheerful acoustic guitar samples interspersed with a piano chord and a progressive beat - just the sort of thing you could listen to whilst enjoying a fine day in your garden. A spacy, processed saxophone kicks in to keep interest as the beat gets more complex. Suddenly a sinister synth appears to drown out the track and we make a transition into menacing drum n bass territory. Bizarre processed sounds are accompanied by a constantly changing, cut-up beat that descends into complete and utter madness before the original melody then fades back in at the end. I like the playful, tongue-in-cheek style and the inventive merging of 2 completely different styles.
If you are new to Amon Tobin I would recommend checking out his later albums first because they are more refined and accessible. Buy this if you are tired of conventions and want to hear experimental music sculpted entirely from samples.
Alternatives I recommend are:
- "Timeless" by Goldie
- "Two Pages" by 4hero
- "Permutation" or "Supermodified" by Amon Tobin
[Also reviewed on Ciao and Epinions]
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Easy Muffin
3 Dream Sequence
4 New York Editor
7 Bitter And Twisted
9 Wires And Snakes
11 Stoney Street
12 One Small Step
13 One Day In My Garden
14 Chomp Samba