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Two Fingers (feat. Sway)

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Album Review

Through the late '90s and beyond, drum'n'bass cut-up maestro Amon Tobin was widely hailed as one of electronica's most exciting and innovative artists. His popularity and critical cachet have waned somewhat since the early '00s, as his output slowed and electronic trends drifted elsewhere, but the late-decade collaborative project Two Fingers should shoot him right back to the center of attention for anybody interested in forward-thinking, urban-inflected electronic beats and pieces. Working together with U.K. producer Joe "Doubleclick" Chapman, the now-Montreal-based Tobin has crafted his most thrilling and visceral work in ages, if not his entire career, freely borrowing elements of grime, dubstep, dancehall, and Dirty South hip-hop, among other styles, to fashion a sound that, while often only tangentially connected to his earlier output, ultimately sounds like little else out there. Two Fingers interpolates jittery, junglesque beat programming, a junkyard barrage of unpredictable percussive sounds and textures, and a sly, omnivorous approach to sampling ("Straw Men" opens the album with a woozily distorted riff that sounds like a refraction of the Turtles' "Happy Together," while "Jewels and Gems" coasts atop a slew of blazing sitar licks), all combined in a whirl of dark, edgy intensity — evoking dubstep's curious ability to sound simultaneously spacious and impenetrably dense — with relentlessly gritty, kinetic energy. Equally crucial to the album's impact are the solid contributions of several MCs; most prominently the London-based rapper Sway, who graces seven of these twelve tracks. Mostly setting aside the waggish wordplay and somewhat mawkish tendencies of his own recent work, Sway is a revelation here, sounding thirstier than ever and imbuing his typically breakneck delivery with a markedly tougher stance, without entirely excising his wry wit. The sparser, slinkier cuts tend to be the domain of female MCs, with dancehall diva Ce'Cile adding the requisite ragga flava to the simmering "Bad Girl"; Philly's Ms. Jade turns up for some stone-faced tough talk on "Better Get That," and coyly coos over the Neptunes-style minimalism of "Doing My Job." And the pair of instrumental cuts — the eastern-tinged "Keman Rhythm" and broodingly twitchy, blasted "Moth Rhythm" — are menacing and compelling, easily among the album's highlights. If there's a relevant contemporary reference point for Two Fingers, it's probably the Bug's London Zoo, another broadly synthesizing opus helmed by a veteran electronic producer whose post-industrial urban soundscapes draw on a similar array of styles and make comparably vital use of guest MCs, but whereas Zoo was often oppressively, crushingly bleak, hardly a party record despite its insistent dancehall riddims, Tobin and Doubleclick (and Sway) inject enough glimmers of levity and spirited playfulness — rhythmic, sonic, and verbal — into their often foreboding murkiness that Two Fingers should manage to engage a wide swath of movers and listeners. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi


Formed: 2007 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Two Fingers is the creation of Brazilian-born electro-jazz/breaks/jungle trailblazer Amon Tobin and U.K. drum'n'bass artist Doubleclick (Joe Chapman), together with several guest MCs whose contributions are integral to the project. The two producers, who first met when Tobin was living in Brighton, U.K., got together in Montreal in 2007 over a series of tracks that were partially an extension of their previous collaborations -- exemplified by the dense, pummeling 2003 track "Ownage" -- but in general...
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Two Fingers (feat. Sway), Two Fingers
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