Something borrowed, something new Composer: Amon Tobin creates music from sampling other music. He is especially fond of his mistakes.

September 24, 1998|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Dance music producer Amon Tobin doesn't make records the way most musicians do. He doesn't play an instrument. He doesn't sing. He doesn't write scores. He doesn't even work with other musicians.

Instead, he works with samples, taking bits of melody and rhythm off existing recordings in order to create a sonic universe of his own. It's not a new idea. Rap DJ Grandmaster Flash did a version of that on his 1981 "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," piecing together a whole single from bits of other records.

But Tobin doesn't simply replay the sounds he borrows. Instead, he virtually reinvents them, using computer programs and processing gear to manipulate the original recording. What he ends up with can be quite remarkable - there are moments on his current album, "Permutation," that are as rich and vibrant as live orchestral recordings - placing Tobin well beyond the normally assumed limits of DJ music.

"What I'm trying to do is make music in a particular way," he says, over the phone from his home in Brighton, England.

Tobin starts with an idea of what he wants his music to sound like - "sometimes, quite a specific idea," he says - and then rummages about through his record library to find the fragments that will eventually create that sound. "I kind of bend them and stretch them and shoehorn them all into this one tune," he says. "It's a process which involves working backward, really."

Tobin says it's kind of like thinking of what you'd want for dinner, then rummaging around the kitchen for ingredients - only to realize that everything you want to use is already part of something else. Say, for example, he wants to take a two-second string part off a bossa nova album. So he samples the part he wants but finds that in addition to the strings, his sample also includes bits of drums and bass.

"So the 'ingredients' are there, but they're all mixed up with different things," he says. "So instead of trying to separate those things out too much, I often try and incorporate the things that I didn't expect.

"I try to remain quite flexible and embrace all the corruptions in the sounds that I find."

Sometimes, in fact, he finds that the "corruptions" that crop up as he edits and manipulates his samples end up making the music more interesting.

"It's quite interesting to magnify those things and make them fit into the piece of music that you had in mind for the strings in the first place," he says. "You end up with quite a lot of unpredictable elements, which actually make the whole sound richer, I believe."

Amon Tobin

When: Tonight at 8.

Where: Fletcher's, 701 S. Bond St., Fells Point

Tickets: $15

L Call: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 410-880-8124 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Amon Tobin's new release, "Permutation," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the code 6127. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2B.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.