Amon Tobin – ISAM

(Ninja Tune)

What better time to review an album than three months after its release and the completion of the live tour which coincided with it?

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Panorama, Top Gear or one of those ‘gritty’ BBC crime dramas (the ones that were entirely shot at night with a cast of forlorn shadows dressed in bin-bags) there is a large probability you’ve caught an accidental earful of Amon Tobin. Tobin, a pioneer of experimental music, has been making music for almost as long as I’ve been alive. ISAM, his latest, has set the bar so high it’s become that one tin of kidney beans that sits just out of reach in the kitchen. You’re not quite sure how you managed to put it there in the first place but you’ll never be able to reach it down again.

"A reworking of the old"

Numerous inexplicable and frankly fucking useless analogies aside, this album is phenomenal. Let me tell you how much I love this album – I bought it.

Having been a fan of Amon Tobin for quite some time I wondered exactly where ISAM would be taking listeners. As a matter of fact after reading the response from other (shitty) music zines I was reluctant to listen to it. Some of ISAM’s reviews include comments that it doesn’t sound like an Amon Tobin release, or that it’s trying too hard. So I think I’m going to shit all over those opinions.

To say that ISAM isn’t an Amon Tobin release is idiocy on a fucked up scale. You’d have to have absolutely no idea what you were saying to pull an opinion like that together.  ISAM takes the Tobin of the past and chews it up, but this is definitely without a doubt a record by Amon Tobin. You could suggest that he’s borrowing from the current trend of ‘bass heavy’ music with this album but that would be bullshit since his work has always been thick with depth.  Most importantly his signature remains in that surreal music-making method he is so loved for – ripping paper, motorbike revving, windchimes and for the first time Amon’s voice (albeit distorted to sound feminine) all feature on the album. It’s a soup of sound and it’s fucking delicious.

A YouTube review of ISAM complained of there being no flow to this record, unlike Permutation or Supermodified. However that youtube user was also  adopting the unfavourable attitude of thinking himself the Big Man because he had an unpopular opinion about a well loved artist. I like to call that the ‘Pitchfork mentality’. His statement was absurd. The album’s opener, Journeyman, transitions effortlessly into Piece of Paper’s slow gait. It’s done in a way that could only suggest that this album was carefully and deliberately prepared. And that isn’t the only instance of this, either. Each track glides to the other through a library of sound expertise. It turns the album into one huge incredible soundscape.

Amon Tobin is well known for meticulous assembly and editing of his orchestra of chaos – especially seen on Foley Room.  ISAM takes this a step further and wears its own mastery on its sleeve, each track outdoing the last, every decision forming an incredibly eerie stuttering groove that will change the way the listener thinks of music. I think ISAM is the first time in ages that I’ve listened to an album from beginning to end in one sitting and not been irritated by a dip in quality halfway through. Every single track on this album is consistent in standard.

What I’d say in response to a lot of other reviews of ISAM is this: this isn’t a record that beats Tobin’s last work, but it stands as an equal amongst the rest of his discography without any difficulty. If you want to check him out, ISAM is as good an album as any to have a go at. It’s still more than worth listening to regardless of whether you’re a loyal fan or not. Also, the ISAM Live show was incredible. Go and have a look at the footage and try not to pinch yourself purple wishing you’d gone, like I did.

Alright kiddies, back to your metal, dubstep  and videogames.

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