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Chaos Theory: The Soundtrack To Splinter Cell

Amon Tobin
Chaos Theory: The Soundtrack To Splinter Cell
(Ninja Tune)

I'll admit that I'm not really into video games. When I was younger, I used to go hog-wild on the original 8-bit Nintendo system and I went through a phase in college where lots of my life evaporated playing Quake, but since that time I've just found myself with different interests and really no time to sit down and play. Sometimes, when a bigger-name game is coming out, it permiates enough of the world that I hear about it, but I honestly didn't even know about this particular video game until I saw that Amon Tobin had done the soundtrack for it.

Although I never expected Tobin to slum it on any of his releases, I honestly wasn't expecting that much from this soundtrack Splinter Cell either, thinking that it might be a toss off of tracks that Tobin hadn't cut for full release or something else. I will admit that I must have been mistaken, though, because the ten tracks and almost fifty minutes of music on this release are pretty much classic Tobin, and I'm glad that I was proven wrong in my initially underestimating the release (before having heard it, of course). Teaming up with a slew of collaborators, it seems that putting together this soundtrack was by no means something he tossed off at random.

Although I was disappointed by his recent Solid Steel mix (mainly for the sound quality, which I felt was rather muffled and poor), Amon Tobin is one of those artists that I can pretty much count on offering quality product. His first two albums of Bricolage and Permutation blew away pretty much everything else in the genre at the time of their release and his last two albums (Supermodified and Out From Out Where) have taken him into some slightly different territory while still maintaining his unique sound and vision. Just to let the listener know he's not fooling around, the album opens with "The Lighthouse," which might be one of the better tracks he's done in some time. Flirting with aggression, the track finds cinematic strings skittering down dark passages as a dark and gritty bassline rumbles while filtered organ melodies build. Eventually, the drums can't be contained any longer and things bust loose with such a frenzy that reminds you why Tobin can hardly be matched when it comes to hyper-saturated drum breaks and slamming cinematics.

"Ruthless" continues the frenetic pace as all manner of mayhem busts loose with chugging rhythms, reversed loops, and just about everything that can stick to the wall while "Theme From Battery" finally takes things down a notch with sonar pings, watery-filtered loops of strings and middle-eastern sounding vocals. In fact, Tobin seems able to indulge his creepy soundtrack style sound even more with this release, and he does so on several tracks including the rumbling "Kokubo Sosho Stealth" and the minor-key strings and backwards loops of "Hokkaido."

Oh, and the moody beat freaks have plenty to sink their teeth into as well. "El Cargo" again takes some spy-movie sounding guitar licks and rubbery bassline and tosses it alongside bursts of piano and one of those overcompressed, ultra-heavy beats that Tobin is so good at while "The Clean Up" closes out the release by easing into things with all kinds of panning orchestral madness before dropping another headsplitting rhythmic freakout to put a big fat exclamation mark on things. In the end, it doesn't really matter that it's the soundtrack to a video game that I'll never play. It's a new Amon Tobin album (and a good one at that), and that's all I need.

Rating: 8