Amon Tobin
Fear In A Handful Of Dust


4.0
excellent

Review

by Benjamin Kuettel STAFF
April 26th, 2019 | 59 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Amon Tobin ventures even further into the abstract, creating a paranormal collage of sound experiments with hardly any percussion or familiarity to grasp.

Amon Tobin, despite being a relatively young artist in the pantheon of electronic music, has seemed to reach the wise old wizard stage of his artistic canon. Tobin’s more recent releases have seen him at his most cerebral, using field recordings and increasingly sophisticated recording and production methods. Having songs featured in blockbuster films, video games, and commercials have done nothing to compromise his artistic ambitions. When Tobin released his last full-length album, Isam in 2011, it took the real-world samples and field recording techniques from predecessor Foley Room and manipulated and processed them into a naturalistic, avant-garde way. The album fully cleansed Tobin of the jazzy future-noir spy music he was known for, and was difficult to grasp for many. Aside from the sleepy, extraterrestrial themed Dark Jovian EP from 2015, Tobin has been mostly quiet since Isam. The nocturnal Fear in a Handful of Dust ventures even further into the abstract, building on the foundation of Isam while dropping most percussive elements and utilizing an electroacoustic style. The vibes hearken to the dark atmospheres of his widely known early work, but Tobin remains free of boundaries once again.

Fear… is an elusive record to say the least. There aren’t so much songs as there are formless vignettes of sound design that seem to hover in place. Tobin’s description of the songs in Isam being “sound sculptures” applies just as fittingly here as well. However, while that was an impressive and unique project, the execution ended up being almost too perfect. Tobin’s skills as a producer and domination over his creations resulted in a highly controlled, restrained effort. Fear is a different beast altogether, more akin to the sprawling nature and diverse sound design of Foley Room. Each track roams through various moods, with the album featuring more playful, shifty sounds while being a logical progression from the highly purposeful Isam. “Freeformed” and most of the tracks in the second half of Fear… utilize the previous album’s stranger moments for rewarding, glitchy extension of those aesthetics. Even the most eclectic pieces feel like they have breathing room, with much of the record being almost laid back in comparison to the general backbone of Tobin’s musical world.

The significance of allowing more compositional freedom makes for an unpredictable listening experience despite the calmer atmosphere, but it would be too easy to label it willfully obtuse. The atmospheres are dark throughout, the sounds occasionally discordant and noisy, especially “Heart of the Sun,” and conventionality is nowhere to be found. Tension is the focal point, especially in regard to how suspensefully everything plays out. “On A Hilltop Sat the Moon” is a dazzling opener, with layer after layer of melodies snaking around each other as synths contract and expand underneath. “Vipers Follow You” follows and brings these elements into a more claustrophobic, mischievous mood. “Dark as Dogs” is softer, with melancholic, gentle melodies bookended by a noisier intro and outro. “Fooling Alright” is the only track with Tobin’s vocals, warped and distorted beyond recognition or discernible lyrics. The hazy melodies and buzzing electronics convalesce with the alien voices for a truly surreal piece.

Fear… feels like a cousin of Amon Tobin’s soundtracks, as the emancipation of his sound has produced rich rewards. Despite the at times formless and meandering nature, most of the tracks possess an urgency and enough interesting instrumentation to keep the journey from veering astray. The albums centerpiece, “Velvet Owl” keeps the momentum going with a pensive, wandering nature emphasizing Tobin’s mastery of manipulating sound and integrating samples. The gorgeous “Pale Forms Run By” is an album highlight, feeling like a moment of catharsis, as if one is being lead into some kind of virtual haunted forest. More than anything, Fear… sounds like a living, fully functioning organism that doesn’t scare outright but could do anything at any moment. It’s clear that despite his virtuosic level in electronic music, Tobin has learned and grown even more this past decade. He appears to have trusted his instincts and let his wildest artistic ambitions loose and breathe on their own. The mood of Fear in a Handful of Dust conjures all sorts of imagery, especially of the mysterious. Amon Tobin’s evolution as a writer and producer is felt, having some of the most engaging and depthful moments of his career.




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user ratings (30)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2019


18402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Full album stream: https://music.amontobin.com/album/fear-in-a-handful-of-dust

Digging: The National - I Am Easy to Find

Relinquished
April 25th 2019


39842 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

rules

BeyondCosby
April 25th 2019


2508 Comments


Commenting on this so i remember to check it out haha

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I certainly wouldnt call Amon Tobin "relatively young" for the "pantheon of electronic". Bit of a bemusing sentiment. Gonna read this when I'm at my comp tho

Demon of the Fall
April 26th 2019


10383 Comments


Nice review. Will check this when I can as I enjoyed some of his earlier stuff (even though I haven't explored his works thoroughly).

Digging: The National - I Am Easy to Find

Tb1114
April 26th 2019


265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

had no idea this was coming out

sick

Tb1114
April 26th 2019


265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

b/w this & FlyLo's new album, i'ma have some great electronic nugs to sift thru

Demon of the Fall
April 26th 2019


10383 Comments


Check new Lamb as well, enjoying it so far.

CugnoBrasso
April 26th 2019


590 Comments


Leaving a comment so that I don't forget that I need to check this out eventually.

bgillesp
April 26th 2019


6904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah isn’t he in his 40s or something? Anyway, this is very good. His earlier stuff for me had awesome songs but as a unit of an album they never worked perfectly for me. This one flip flops a bit in having better album flow, but not quite the same degree of highlights.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2019


18402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haha I forget how many youngins are on this site. Electronic music has been around since the ‘50s, and Amon Tobin was part of the ‘90s with Aphex Twin and stuff like that. What I meant by it with my second sentence is that he’s only in his 40s, a lot of his most famous stuff already happened, and is still making the most abstract artsy stuff of his career. I ended up deleting a bunch of extra exposition in the first paragraph so maybe saying he’s young sticks out more now, might take that out.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"Only in his 40's"

"90s with aphex twin"



Hes been making music for over 2 decades, he was at the forefront of idm and trip hop with other household names. Electronic may have existed in prototypical and very general forms since the 50s but it didnt start informing popular music until the 70s at the earliest and didn’t evolve into distinct subgenres until even later

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Good review btw but yeah electronic is a relatively young genre but Amon Tobin is not a relatively young electronic artist and that has nothing to do with MY age

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2019


18402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I see your point. I guess when I found out that Amon Tobin and Aphex Twin were only in their 40s I was surprised, always thought they’d be older since their most famous stuff was the early-mid ‘90s when they were barely legally considered adults. Lots of other famous electronic artists of the ‘90s are older, but there’s a new generation of electronic music being made since the ‘90s by millennials so Amon obviously isn’t part of that.

The second part of my first sentence was meant to indicate that he isn’t like a Brian Eno or a krautrock musician but has the experience and expertise of someone like that while being relatively young.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I think the confusion is mostly around whether you meant young literally (age-wise) which is what I'm gathering you meant now?



Rather than young AT the genre which is what I originally thought you meant

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I get u now tho, I think we were just basically arguing semantics

Relinquished
April 26th 2019


39842 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"always thought they’d be older since their most famous stuff was the early-mid ‘90s when they were barely legally considered adults"



lol dude they were 21-26 when their most popular works came out.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 26th 2019


43055 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

On to the music tho you summed up a lot of my feelings on how this continues from Foley and ISAM but kind of masters that aesthetic. If ISAM was sound sculptures this is almost a 4 dimensional narrarative to an intangible realm. Theres a physicality to it that ISAM also had but now it's just that much more immersive

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2019


18402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I just meant his age.

Relinquished: 21 is pretty young to me in terms of making what’s considered their best work, and apparently Richard had been writing and recording the stuff from Ambient Works 1 & 2 as early as his teens.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2019


18402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pots do you like this more than Isam and Foley Room? I prefer this style to Isam, but Foley Room is really impressive to me and is my favorite of the three.



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