A foley room is a place where sound effects are recorded for films. It's totally soundproof, clinical, methodical and has an eerie sense of lifelessness - except for the strange sounds that are produced there. This goes some way to describe the latest album by Ninja Tune's maestro of sound manipulation Amon Tobin. Tobin's previous work was entirely constructed from found sounds, but his sources were usually vinyl. Foley Room sees Tobin turn a corner in his compositional process and the entire album is created from recorded sounds both in the foley room using manipulated instruments and also from street life, zoo life and just about anything you can think of that makes a noise.
Of course, this has all been done before - but Tobin's unique methods and musical understanding make this a truly engaging listening experience. This record crawls, oozes, slithers, crashes, scrapes and sometimes pummels it's way through your head in much the same way that every Tobin record does, but this seems to be a lot more focused. It's a predominantly beat driven record, but the sources of these beats are so expertly masked that your ear soon stops trying to identify recognisable sounds and just allows itself to be taken over by the other-worldly quality of the sound. And this other world is no jolly romp in fields of poppies. Tobin's soundscapes are always ominous and this is no exception. The beats often seem to be created by an army of insects and the orchestral sounds that underlie all this invoke visions of impending doom. Though named after a room devoid of atmosphere, this album is all about atmosphere. It has the feeling of a soundtrack and is incredibly visual.
And talking of visuals, the LP comes with a 20 minute documentary about the making of the record and really helps to explain the process. We see Amon and his team take to the streets with highly sensitive recording equipment and dig out the tools with which this record is constructed. He visits motorbike garages, CD production factories and even a safari park where he records all manner of wildlife. Classical strings and drums are used in the foley room, but are manipulated and reconstructed through the sampling process. Peanuts are scattered on bass drums and drum kits are forged out of metal bowls of various fullness bobbing around in water pools. The interesting thing is seeing all this and Tobin crouched, headphone clad, next to the tracks as a train roars past and then listening to the record and seeing how these recordings have been used to create the most remarkable textures and how some really beautiful music has been born out of this apparent chaos.