upermodified is the pastiche home-studio album that bedroom musicians have been trying to make for the last 10 years. Its busy, but not crowded; groovy, but not repetitive; playful, but most definitely not throwaway. Brazilian breakbeat legend Amon Tobin perfected his techniques on both Bricolage and Permutations, but it's Supermodified that his style comes to ultimate fruition.
The tracks flow like water, being a somewhat heady mix of up-beat grooves, skittery (but warm) beats and an assortment of brilliantly manipulated samples from an array of exotic material. Never relying on vocals to complement the music, Tobin opts to instead develop complete soundscapes, immersing the listener in warm tones and some somewhat surprising touches. One of the more eminent examples being “Marine Machines”, which has an almost epic tension emanating from the multiple layers of horns. The song moves along like a mysterious character in a film – hiding in the shadows and pouncing unexpectantly.
Album highlight (and subsequent single) “4 Ton Mantis” gives the aural impression of a factory in motion. They are reminiscent of pounding motions set to the kind of rhythm that makes me envisage a workforce on task. The song never lets up, endless pushing forward with a plethora of cymbal sizzles and rolling bass. “Golfer vs. Boxer” starts in a similar menacing tone with what would be the perfect introduction a more conventional drum’n’bass track. But Tobin is not your regular breakbeat artist. Instead, he lets the song flow and build steam until eventually he lets loose the break – accompanied by two killer bass rhythms.
‘Deo” should be immediately familiar to any of those who can spot a funk break from a distance, utilizing Deodato’s incredible “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as the basis for one of the more conventional tracks on the album. Zarathustra’s legendary organ pulsates repeatedly as the song develops, always threatening to explode. Again Tobin lets loose an exceptional break, this time a somewhat disjointed number that flows in and out as the song finds its feet. The rhythm never gives up, the track coming to a close under a mass of broken and reassembled beats and disguised synth.
Things take a more tropical feel on “Chocolate Lovely”. Tobin incorporates bongos, and some upbeat organ to the mix, layered upon a bed of bass, and featuring coloring from slippery drums and background effects in the style of label-mate Funki Porcini’s brilliant Love, Pussycats and Carwrecks album.
The whole album plays as a wonderful soundtrack to a film that no one has ever made, conveying images of deception, authoritarian might, espionage, dazzling beachfronts (every spy has to take some time off to enjoy the sights!), and an inevitable escape into the shadows. Not many studio-bound electronic musicians could put forward such a vivid and dynamic statement or make it as entertaining and downright funky as Supermodified has managed to do. Essential listening.
Reviewed by: Chris Andrews
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01