One of the most exciting frontiers for sample-based music is the creation of some otherwise impossible ethnic fusions. As demonstrated by lots of well-meaning real-time collaborations by musicians from disparate cultures--Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan riffing on Michael Brook's bland ambience, Ry Cooder jamming the "Ganges Delta Blues" with V.M. Bhatt--the clash of personalities can result in less-than-ideal compromises. With electronics there are far fewer egos to crush. The world-beating blends on Amon Tobin's dazzling Bricolage (Ninja Tune) work because the mixing takes place on a neutral dance floor, where down-tempo hip-hop and charged-up drum 'n' bass mingle with a variety of international flavors. Propulsive chunks of Japanese taiko drumming, sensually swinging saxophone ululations, and sashaying samba rhythms become integral facets of dense rhythm programs--but Tobin never overemphasizes his eclecticism. The samples are just means to a sumptuous end. On Blow Your Headphones Tobin's label mates Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, aka the Herbaliser, stick to a foundation of lean hip-hop grooves, but they're equally interested in crafty sonic constructions. Jazz-informed bass playing and economical horn charts mesh with tough rhythms, yet the duo steers clear of the typically effete feel of "acid jazz." Although rapper What What of Natural Resource provides a couple of superb cameos, for the most part the Herbaliser keeps it instrumental--and the mix of nifty scratching, inventive sampling, and intelligently employed real playing keeps the mind from wandering. Tobin, Teeba, and Stevie Bear and Task of Up, Bustle & Out are DJing as part of this Ninja Tune Stealth Tour, so you won't hear music from their own recordings--but you'll get a keen feel for the sensibilities that created it. Monday, 9 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Amon Tobin photo/ Herbaliser photo.