“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is the many-monikered electronic innovator, lateral-thinking label-boss and soundtrack cypher, Amon Tobin whose latest alias Stone Giants releases a sometimes sun-dappled, mournfully moon-drenched album “West Coast Love Stories” today on vinyl from his own Nomark records. Imagine if Alex Garland’s “The Beach” was written in a post pandemic prism and this is the woozy punch drunk soundtrack. Stone Giants is about the synthesis between byting computer love and true bare boned emotion, with Tobin’s only true peer from all his 90s intelligent electronica contemporaries perhaps the bleep boho Bibio.
I’ve been a fan of Amon’s since the late 90s when I was channel manager of MTV2 and we featured the work of Ninja Tune as much as we could squeeze it in. At the time we were interviewing a load of auteur-ish music video directors and I harboured hopes of emulating them. I tried my luck with an amateurish DV lo-fi cut & shut video of a soft toy being destroyed in a manner of mechanical methods to the strains of Tobin’s “Four Ton Mantis” (from the excellent ultra accessible “Supermodified”) which I tried to pass onto Donkey, the Ninja Tunes vid commissioner, but I doubt it ever got near Tobin. When a few weeks later I saw genius director Floria Sigismondi’s amazing take on the tune, I felt slightly embarrassed. Never got to interview Floria (although did manage to talk on camera to David Bowie about her) and unfortunately despite chatting to the likes of DJ Food, DJ Vadim and The Herbaliser at the time never did get to meet Amon Tobin.
It’s alright now though cos he’s agreed to pick a tune for me right here, and it’s a beat-laced belter. Welcome to VS, Amon Tobin!
Listen to the second single from Amon with his Stone Giants hat on, it’s called “Metropole” and it’s here
Tobin started his understatedly named Nomark label in 2019 and has so far released various alter-egos into the ether including One Child Tyrant and Figueroa. Both have cast a wider sprawl into a more organic psychedelic sound than ever, and with Stone Giants, it’s the most rock-ish effort to date for Tobin. Not that it’s heavy. It’s far from that. It’s still cinematic, sure, you’d expect that from a master of the screen score, but it’s whisper it, human.
Gentle and poised, melancholic with a thousand yard stare into the wilderness. Of course it’s adventurous, it’s Amon Tobin we’re talking about. The man from ISAM, a Splinter Cell all of his very own. It features Figueroa on it which does make me slightly chuckle as I wonder if he has to figuratively change headgear to get into the zone of guesting on his own record with another sonic identity, but overall this is an album of sober reflection, and an artist at the peak of their powers, knowing the power of the silences between the sine waves, when to make the intakes sharp and when to make the music breathe.
Here’s the album artwork by JR Korpa…
For a musically studious and wanderlusting-ly curious guest as Tobin I wasn’t surprised at the considered choice of tune for our feature, and you won’t be disappointed either. Without further ado, this is Amon’s hydra-headed “song for ewe”…
“Trace & Nico – Amtrak / Squadron
Nu Black – NNU 2003
when I first heard no U turn stuff I’d been invested in a world of ray keith, danny breaks, dillinja and the likes for some time. that was the era I’d come from and my draw to dn’b initially were the breaks we knew well taking on different shapes as they were reordered with flair and imagination. it was the drum equivalent of b boy battles where classic moves were learned, adapted and then evolved into new moves.
no u turn represented an evolution I didn’t particularly love at first. it was stark and minimal by comparison. entering a new era of tech step I wasn’t altogether sold on. I’d take it any day over the insipid coffee table dn’b that pitter pattered in the background of hight street shoe shops but I dunno.. it was so controlled I missed the reckless nature of music I’d looked to for the unexpected. it would take me a while to appreciate it for what it was.
when I’d picked up Amtrak as a 12” somewhere along the line though I had a moment. it wasn’t just the sickest phrase in bass I’d ever heard it was the way the drums interacted with it. the kick and snare grounding the first half of the phrase and amen rolling over the second half in perfect support of it’s feel. it was fucking glorious.
as a reluctant DJ launched into tours supporting bands I didn’t particularly like at the time, my greatest joy was smashing jazz hipsters in the face with the baddest dn’b I could find. this did that too but in a different way. it taught me alot about what really counts in a heavy piece of music. that control channels what’s important so it’s more effective with less effort. and that a handful of well chosen elements interacting in just the right way wins out over mayhem every time.”
You can buy a vinyl copy of “West Coast Love Stories” by Stone Giants today right here
MANY THANKS TO AMON AND TO LAUREN BARLEY OF RARELY UNABLE PR