It's an art installation....It's a mammoth beat making structure.....It's Amon Tobin!!!
Born in Brazil, artistically blossoming in Portugal, England, and San Francisco, then settling in Montreal, Amon Adonai Santos de Araújo Tobin's music is much like his passport- all over the place. Beginning as Cujo in the early 90s, he wrote jazzy trip-hop that got him noticed by England's powerhouse trip-hop label Ninja Tunes, where his over-the-top sound design and production values earned him a top spot on their eclectic roster.
7 albums later, he has become world renowned for his ever-changing style, originality, and almost maniacal attention to detail concerning his recordings and live performances. From the broken Latin style of 1997's Bricolage to the abstractly dynamic Supermodified of 2000, you can hear him pushing his gear to its limits and making sounds machines were never meant to make. It was these releases, and 2002's Out From Out Where, that led to video game company Ubisoft Montreal headhunting him to score the soundtrack for their critically successful Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory series, an album that blew the doors off the world of video game soundtracks. For a breath of fresh air, Amon spent 2006 traveling up and down the west coast of America with an omnidirectional microphone collecting source material, and then in 2007 he teamed up with the Kronos Quartet to release the organically sonic Foley Room that was so deep with layers and tones that it required its own custom sound system for the tour, at Amon's insistence.
Then after another video game score, sound design work for BBC's Top Gear, and commercial work for Nissan, we come to his newest venture: ISAM or Invented Sounds Applied to Music. One part musical release (his 7th studio album) and one part installation conceived by Amon Tobin and Saatchi collection artist Tessa Farmer, that is thematically related to the music of ISAM which creates a new and creepy world that encompasses the listener. The music is some of Amon's most untethered to date, and gone is the concept and structure of previous releases. Instead, we are hardwired into sonic art built around field recordings of unexpected sources. From the bass-oozing fairy dance of the disc opener "Journeyman," which sounds like Tinkerbell on a pseudoephedrine bender, you are immediately transported into a sound pool that only has a deep end. Thunderous mechanical beasts howl at you from one direction on "Goto 10," while a flute filled with marshmallows and then attached to the end of a drill bounces back and forth between your ears wearing fuzzy sonic slippers on "Surge." Amon even debuts his gender-modified vocals on this release, first becoming a ghostly gypsy on "Lost & Found", and then a female cat owner serenading her pet about the vicious way it did away with the gift left at her feet on the creepy "Kitty Cat." A longtime fan of Amon might consider this album a bit self-centered and off the deep end, considering the lack of his signature jazz samples and head-nodding tempos, but it is the second half of the project that reveals the butterfly.
On tour, ensconced within the 25 x 14 x 8-foot central cube of a huge geometric sculpture made by Heather Shaw of Vita Motus Design, Amon brings to life the whole album and a few past favorites using real-time projection mapping, generative imagery and audio-reactive elements with the help of V-Squared Labs and Leviathan. It is less of a concert and more of a traveling art installation that is nothing short of amazing with a thick layer of bizarre. I was lucky enough to catch the performance last year at the Ogden theater, and beyond my jaw-dropping praises for the brilliant visual onslaught I was also blown away by the sonic onslaught as well that mirrored the care taken in his live Foley Room gig years ago. If you want a chance to experience this performance you are in luck because he will be returning with the whole ISAM installation to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on September 4th. If you have a love for visual art, performance art or just gorgeous loud soundscapes then this will appeal to you and give you something to remember for years to come. Put the CD on hold and then grab your tickets to the show and join in Amon's invented sounds and visuals applied to your mind.