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Amon Tobin - Chaos Theory


Review: Jack Foley

COULD it be that computer games are beginning to overtake movies in terms of merchandising?

Having already attracted the talents of some of Hollywood's leading names (Jean Reno, Pierce Brosnan, etc) to cutting-edge game releases, the medium is now courting the attention of some of the best names in music.

Hence, just as films have soundtracks, so too do games.

Driv3r and Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas have already used the likes of Phantom Planet, The Bellrays, The Raveonettes, Rage Against The Machine and Cypress Hill.

But now Ubisoft's Splinter Cell series has signed on trendy Ninja Tunes label stalwart, Amon Tobin, for a suitably rousing mix of beats and breaks that serve as the perfect accompaniment to its upcoming Chaos Theory game (released in April).

What marks Chaos Theory out from a lot of game soundtracks, however, is the fact that it's an all-new score, which allows the Brazilian ex-pat music maestro to realise a teenage ambition - to make a soundtrack.

As such, it's an enticing blend of everything Amon Tobin fans have come to love about him, albeit on a more progressively excessive scale.

That means plenty of extended string arrangements and over the top Hammond organ solos woven into the sounds, not to mention a semi-orchestral backdrop to lend proceedings a more epic feel.

Gamers, no doubt, will love the accompanying music as they plot their way through Splinter Cell's latest mission, particularly as it frequently reaches crescendos that are designed to cash-in on the action sequences.

But whether it works outside of the game zone remains something of a debatable issue (much like a lot of instrumental scores for film soundtracks).

When devoid of accompanying images, there tends to be something missing - although Tobin does his best to create something that has a life beyond the games remit.

Hence, tracks such as The Lighthouse deliver an aggressive, edgy mix of atmospherics and bravado that could just as easily find their way onto a Bond soundtrack or the new Jason Bourne movie.

While the strings-laden Theme From Battery demonstrates Tobin's ability to build things slowly, no doubt heightening the more tense moments of the game - and providing an example of where the soundtrack works less well as a listen in its own right.

Tobin does, however, redeem himself with tracks such as El Cargo, which really bring the house down in terms of rapid beats, spliced guitars and orchestral arrangements. It is during such moments that the album could even be said to have dancefloor crossover appeal.

All of which makes it another triumph for the Ninja Tunes label that puts them and Amon Tobin at the forefront of new musical directions.

Track listing:
1. The Lighthouse
2. Ruthless
3. Theme From Battery
4. Kokubo Sosho Stealth
5. El Cargo
6. Displaced
7. Ruthless (Reprise)
8. Kokubo Sosho Battle (adapted from Cougar Merkin)
9. Hokkaido
10. The Clean Up

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