AMON TOBIN with BONOBO, PREFUSE 73 and P-LOVE at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Wednesday (October 16), $15. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Forget the rumours about cut-up king Amon Tobin moving from his seaside English hometown of Brighton to Montreal for a break in the grey weather and a closer proximity to smoked meat.
Tobin is shipping his studio and his vast music collection across the ocean for purely business reasons, in particular, to plunder our record stores. It's not that Tobin has already cleaned out the UK's shops, but with his dark sample-based tracks largely built from bits of North American soundtrack records, the closer to the source the better.
"There are a thousand times more records over here than there," Tobin insists from his new home. "The movie industry is based in North America, so you can get this incredible surplus of vinyl from pretty much anything recorded from the 40s on, including film music, radio broadcasts and everything in between. Most of that stuff never makes it to England, and if it does, it's incredibly expensive.
"That was the real reason why I moved here. Most of the records I use on my albums I pick up here while on tour, so this will make things a lot easier. With my source material closer, I imagine this will be a really prolific year."
Being closer to his "instruments" doesn't mean that Tobin's process of creation is getting any easier, though. Over the course of several albums, his complex strategy of building dense, layered tracks entirely out of recontexualized samples has only gone deeper.
Tobin's new Out From Out Where disc treads familiar ground, but he insists there's no routine.
"The process is getting harder, not easier," he counters. "The technology makes things more interesting, but doesn't really simplify things. I want my stuff to sound fresh, so I'm always trying to change the focus and rework the sounds.
"I'm getting into changing the roles of sounds more now. I'll try to use a vocal sample as a percussion instrument or I'll make strings out of vocals. It's just a way to adapt sounds and make what I have work. It sounds fairly clinical, but it can also be quite organic."
Subtle changes in technique aside, at times it seems like Tobin's reworking the same ideas over and over again. He's refined his approach of sample destruction and restructuring down to a fine point, and you have to wonder whether he's taken the art as far as it can go.
"I don't buy the idea that this is some kind of special approach to making music," he shoots back. "The approach is just the tool I use to get the music out. It's really no different for a flute player, and you'd never ask a flute player, 'How much flute can you really play?' It's about what you do with it.
"If it was just about tools, people with the most money would be making the best music. That's not the case. It's those with passion and the will to experiment that take this stuff the furthest. If you look at it from that perspective, anything's possible."