Amon Tobin on ISAM 2.0: "Strange and Heavy as F#%& With an Equally Messed-Up Story"
Old-time samba and bossa nova might come to mind when thinking of Brazil. But it's also the country that spawned one of electronic music's most forward-thinking artists.
Since the late '90s, Rio de Janeiro-born composer, producer, and sonic mad scientist Amon Tobin has honed his own ever-evolving brand of electronica. Some call it intelligent dance music or IDM, a sound marked by experimental sound design, intricate textures, and broken beats that defy conventional dance-floor functionality.
Surely, Tobin's most ambitious project to date is ISAM, an experimental album and audiovisual show that he first took on tour in 2011.
"ISAM is about exploring what's possible with music and sound, using new technologies," Tobin tells Crossfade. "The record used emerging production techniques, many of which had previously only been tools for sound design in cinema, and applied them to music. It took three years to complete. And love it or hate it, it genuinely broke some new ground.
"The problem was there was no way to perform it live," he adds. "So new ways of presenting electronic music that wasn't strictly 'dance' music also had to be thought about. The show is the result of this problem-solving process. I wanted to visually interpret what people could hear in a way that was more than some fancy eye candy. Instead, I'd perform the music inside an invented object that could shape-shift to a narrative -- a kind of live movie that reacts to the score. The music would continue to be what it is, strange and heavy as fuck, but with an equally messed-up story unraveling around it."
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This month, Tobin is embarking on a newly revamped ISAM 2.0 live show, which promises to take the senses into even further overload. "Depending on where we play, [the show] can end up being twice the size, which opens up a world of widescreen possibilities," he explains. "But it's really down to new material both visual and audio. In the end, I think live production is only as good as the work that goes into the material, and if nothing, else we've certainly all worked really hard on this."
The ISAM 2.0 international tour also coincides with the release of the new Stunt Rhythms LP by Two Fingers, Tobin's side project. Two Fingers has Tobin exercising a less cerebral and more bass-heavy and floor-friendly sound, with nods to his earliest electronic music influences.
"Two Fingers is my outlet for just having fun with beats," Tobin explains. "Unlike the work under my own name, I'm not trying to learn new things here -- I'm just venting my love of beat-making. Stunt Rhythms is what I've held close since I was about 13. All the electro compilations that would filter down from New York to my shitty town where I grew up in the mid-'80s."
"Tracks like Man Parrish's "Boogie Down Bronx", Cybotron's "Clear" as well as hip-hop like JVC Force's "Strong Island" and EPMD's "Strictly Business" all get vented in one way or another here but through D&B production techniques. So it ends up being a hybrid of all I love about bass music, hip-hop, old-school electro and halfstep D&B."
Get ready for a sci-fi head trip of a live show the likes of which you've probably never experienced when Amon Tobin brings ISAM 2.0 to The Fillmore Miami Beach on September 22.
Amon Tobin. Saturday, September 22. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $35 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
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