Amon Tobin releases under the sudonames Amon Tobin, Two fingers, Only Child Tyrant, Figueroa and the soon-to-be revealed Stone Giants and Paperboy. This album is the first under the guise of ‘Figueroa’ and is entitled ‘The world as we know it’ - a poignant statement of the times we are in – 2020 will definitely be a year that goes down in history as will this album.
Tobin found inspiration for this ‘psych folk project” in the woods of northern California. He wanted to create a guitar-based album, arranged in a way familiar to fans of Ennio Morricone, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Radiohead and the guitar-beat soundtracks of European films.
Although Tobin doesn’t think his music is ‘cinematic’, for me it is undoubtedly epic and is so rare in its extraordinary ability to be both visually evocative and musically innovative.
‘The world as we know it’ is structured like a true production – far more than a ‘soundtrack experience’, it offers the listeners a chance to escape and imagine a whole different world. The format is put together perfectly; each track rolls off the last enigmatically and demands you pay attention to its entirety! One thing to point out is that although most of the album sounds guitar-driven, the record is actually entirely guitar-free.
The album’s melodious vocal tracks were recorded by Sylvia Massy (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Life of Agony) at Capitol Records in Hollywood; The World As We Know It was recorded solo by Tobin nearly a decade ago in a secluded cabin in the woods of Nicasio, California.
In an interview with Dan Epstein for Flood magazine Tobin says; “It’s all programmed, I did everything with computers, so none of it is real, in terms of actual instruments. I’d done it all with MIDI, so I made these really elaborately programmed picking phrases and chords. It would have been so much easier to learn how to play guitar, but for some reason, I was like, ‘No, I’m an electronic musician—I’m going to do this electronically!’ It was innovation born out of necessity. I didn’t have the ability to play guitar, so I had to make do with what I did know how to do.”
He goes on to say: ‘it was a weird time for me. I was very isolated. Nothing was normal; it was not my normal set of circumstances or set of interests, or anything’. In another interview with Trebuchet magazine by Art Divine Thunders, she asks us all a poignant question:
“What are genres for? Are they really the signposts we need to start listening, and if so what does that say about how we listen? If you’ve found yourself bored with music perhaps it’s time to forget genres to really open your auditory awareness”. Thank god someone else also thinks the restrictions of genres only restricts our passion for music itself. One of the main reasons I love Amon Tobin is his ability to defy genre constraints and push forward against all boundaries.
He now has his own label, Nomark, and has the freedom to do just the above! In previous examples, some artists when given this ‘free reign’ tend to go off the rails and produce a load of music that appears so disconnected and random, they lose their followers – well, not in this case!
I’ve described Tobin’s work as epic, and cinematic, and reminiscent of times when symphonies and orchestral masterpieces were created! In this album, Tobin creates that feeling of the unknown, but makes it blissful and relaxing rather than anxious and uneasy. The album opens with ‘Weather girl’; beautiful rippling guitar sets the mood for the album. 'Put me under' follows in suit, conjuring further feelings of space and imagination. ‘If you knew my name’ reminds me of Radiohead’s albums and although has sombre undertones, the crescendo of the chorus is uplifting and spiritual. ‘ The world as we know it’ album title track really does as it says - evocative words and music underlining it only reiterates the times we are in. ‘Do right’ has a hypnotic feel to it, the words and use of space in the music is mesmerizing.
‘Better run’ is again continuing the journey into the unknown, ethereal and dramatic at the same time. ‘Don’t be a bitch’slows down the pace of the album and is more simplistic in its use of music, but is perfectly placed in the album for the listener to realize what they have been listening to. The album finishes with a 6-minute masterpiece called ‘Back to the stars’ – for me this track is the ultimate finish to an album, really the best way to write about this track would just be to write the lyrics and I’m going to leave THAT up to you!
The songs are somewhat obscure and questionably ‘druggy’. Art Divine Thunders articulates it perfectly: “Tobin’s Figueroa is breathy, opaque and mesmeric’.
This new venture of Tobin’s seems to create a character of quest - someone looking for answers or the opposite someone asking questions. Although there is a sense of unease, it is reflective of the times we are in and so sits comfortably in our minds. The reason I have always been drawn to this artist is his ability to sum up how we FEEL through music – he can produce absolute bangers that stop you in your tracks and then he can create masterpieces like this - an ethereal journey into the unknown, punctuating the times we are in; Is this a reflective statement on our uncertain times?
Available at: https://nomarkrecords.com/music