Amon Tobin – ISAM

Illustrious Brazilian producer Amon Tobin has returned with his 8th album – ISAM – a work that takes you to the next level, sweeping you into a rich and deep sci-fi future as fragments of sounds cluster and morph harmoniously together before disassembling into space and dusty glitches once again.

ISAM is an intense and all-consuming project, and is a refined and inspiring culmination of Tobin’s work so far. He’s forever been pushing the boundaries of electronic music, straining towards a future sound that now encompasses sound design, art, melody and emotion. Tobin made a name for himself with his heavy and ingenious use of sampling in his earlier works, but he pushed beyond this with the use of field recordings in the production of his 2007 album Foley Room. And now he’s gone a step further – “It’s 2011 folks, welcome to the future!” he tells us on his Soundcloud page on which he gives a track-by-track commentary of the album:

To define ISAM as any sort of musical genre would be to needlessly confine it – essentially this album is rejuvenating electronic music using sound design, and that is as far as I’ll go. The influences for ISAM range unexpectedly (or perhaps expectedly) from Tom Waits to Pink Floyd, from the Sgt. Pepper album to Frank Zappa – try to imagine these influences through the electronic spectrum of ISAM and you can see where my unwillingness to pigeon hole arises.

The sounds of ISAM all started out as field recordings that were then synthesized and built into playable instruments using the Haken Continuum Fingerboard . See the making of some of the ISAM sounds:

Using this method of production he is succeeding in re-arranging natural sounds to make something new and imaginary – he has mechanised the natural word, and has lent himself some control over it.

The highlight for me comes mid-way through this epic album with the dark and melodious Lost & Found. Tobin explains part of the concept of the album: “This is where I imagine the hatch being lifted on the torso of the Westworld robot and technology shows itself as the true driving force of all you are experiencing. Nothing is real, it’s all computers.” (ref). The track succeeds in making the listener feel a sort of apocalyptic fear that is somehow enjoyable in its intensity.

This is the second album this year to feed my imagination in such an intense way – the first was Semiomime’s From Memory (an alias of Dj Hidden), a soundtrack to an imaginary film that takes on subtle shape and form in the mind of the listener. Like From Memory, ISAM immerses the listener in a new unknown realm, making you feel awed and alive, disturbed and unnerved, grasping at something tangible and yet entirely unknown.

To mark the release of ISAM, Tobin will be collaborating with Saachii Collection artist Tessa Farmer on a radical and exciting installation project called ‘Control Over Nature’, where Tobin’s sound design will feature alongside Farmer’s natural sculptures: tiny scenes and spectacles built from dead insects, bones and other organic material. An audio-visual match made in heaven, it would seem.

Tessa Farmer: Dragon Fly

ISAM is self indulgent at times there’s no doubt, but it is also fully reliant on the listener to bring it to life. My advice: listen to this album only when you can give it your full undivided attention, your imagination will do the rest. Let’s see where it takes you.

AMON TOBIN + TESSA FARMER PRESENT: ISAM: CONTROL OVER NATURE: 26th May – 5th June (11am – 5pm everyday) Crypt Gallery, below St Pancras Church, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BA

Amon Tobin will bring his Audio-Visual show “ISAM: Live” to the following venues, with many more to be announced…
1st June – Mutek, Montreal
9th June – Astra, Berlin
10th June – AB, Brussels
17th June – Roundhouse, London

Due to the unfortunate leaking of the album, ISAM is now available digitally from Ninja Tune or youn can wait ’til the 23rd May to save some pennies and get the Deluxe Bundle – the digital version, Artwork CD, 2xLP and T-Shirt.



  1. That Continuum Fingerboard looks amazing, haven’t heard of those before 😉

    • awesome isn’t it! looks really satisfying and tactile…. i wanna play!

  2. Just listening to the preview again, can’t wait to give this a proper deep listen, fuck, I might even buy it 😉

  3. Really enjoyed this review/critque lisa, nice 1

  4. check this out! Full length trailer for the ISAM show…

  5. Have a look at the live show here

    Looks pretty amazing

  6. I do accept as true with all of the ideas you have offered on your post.
    They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for starters.
    May you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.

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