Jam bands such as Phish and Dave Matthews have a new kind of competition in Amon Tobin, a Brazilian native who samples, jazzes, and swings like no one else. Jam master Tobin may be more self-sufficient than Moby. He's also at least as creative, and he doesn't depend on vocals, guitar dramatics, or other rock ready-mades to get by. Tobin's fourth album seamlessly sequences 12 varied tracks spanning the liquid, dubby "Slowly," the binary taffy salsa of "Saboteur," the eerily propulsive "Rhino Jockey," and the languid apprehension/distortion/transformation of island rhythms in "Keepin' It Steel."
Augmented by Blue Jam/Brass Eye's Chris Morris and the Quadraceptor, a cyber-beatboxer from Montreal, Tobin works all kinds of electronic magic here. Not only do the tracks one-up their sources -- Tobin samples everything from motorbikes to tubas and spitting and farting, and there are times you'd swear you're in an electronic forest, the sounds are so deep -- they move naturally from one to the next. The music is so well-blended, it's impossible to tell where the acoustic and electric separate or where the accretion turns into power. Tobin masterfully pits the repetitive against the unexpected; the title Supermodified seems to refer to his clearly sophisticated, mysterious compositional process. It's a supernatural, unforgettable album. Jam bands might get us all together, grooving like hive mates on a head trip, but Tobin, at least as validly, reminds us how different we all are and allows us to seek out our companions on our own.