The Foley Room – Amon Tobin
For his seventh release, Brazilian DJ Amon Tobin pleases music, audio, and film nerds in one fell swoop. Foley Room finds Tobin exactly where his albums moniker indicates: the foley room, where sound effects (usually meant for overdubbing films) are manually recorded and altered using a somewhat archaic method called foley.
Though Tobin has been known in the past for his heavy sampling, hes traditionally relied on methods that were not quite the real thing. This time he records bees, motorcycles, peas and large cats, and does it the old fashioned way with mics n shit.
From the menacing first notes of Bloodstone, a vampires waltz that bubbles out of the River Styx, his presence is felt. Dissonant minor-key strings played by the Kronos Quartet assail the ears while a simple classical piano line drops a jaunty melody amidst blinding reverse shimmers of light. Finally the undertone of electronica breaks its silence as a hypnotic polyrhythm rises through the toes, up the spine and into the brain.
Much of Foley Room has an earthly luster, as though Tobin pinpointed, and then manipulated, some of lifes most ancient rhythms. This rings true on Keep Your Distance; the tracks tribal drumming and watery melodies tap into some higher consciousness. On The Killers Vanilla, Tobin finds himself sandwiched comfortably between electronic producer Moby and jazz groove trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. A looping organ effect melds with slow, sinister funk drums and a trace of hushed chanting in the distance. Then the drum drops, and an extensive day-dream segment with orchestrated strings and vocal incantations begets a quick blast back into the beat.
The aquatic Kitchen Sink continues Foley Rooms earthbound inclination for texture. Its a hazy, reverb-heavy reggae groove with au naturel water samples, racecar synth patches and a palpable Brazilian beach vibe. A snippet of Tobins liner notes gives us a glimpse into how much he loves to manipulate with experimental sounds: Bass tones were made by cupping bowls over water in the sink. Droplets were processed to form sounds that resembled finger snaps. Horsefish is a much welcome subdued interlude. Theres a quiet rawness to the song, as Tobin uses only a harp, a guitar, a womans voice and a handful of moderate audio tweaks here and there. Its lack of sonic size is aided by minimalist percussion and a mellow-gold acoustic luster. Its a step out of the DJ lounge for some fresh air and a bit of polymodal moonlight.
The albums title track is heavy on both percussion and foley, but its droning bass beat is a bit suffocating amidst the frenzy of blips and speed-freak percussion fills. In fleeting instances the release may fall back on familiar trance formulas (such as Ever Falling), but its sonic ingenuity makes for an intriguing and surprisingly accessible experience.
Foley Rooms organic electronica is charismatic and sensual. Amon Tobin manages to bring back an old school style of sampling while keeping his feet firmly planted in the underpinnings of his origins. His stirring subsonic soliloquies, blended with his cunning experiments in sound, tap the primordial depths of time and will please nerds and non-nerds of all walks.