Amon Tobin's ISAM 2.0 Makes Other DJs Look Bad at the Fillmore Miami Beach, September 22

Amon Tobin

With The Holy Other

Fillmore Miami Beach

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Better Than: Any light show that venue (and most people) have ever seen.

In EDM, the visual element is becoming increasingly important. Many DJs and producers are funneling thousands into next-level sound and lighting in hopes of creating the most memorable atmosphere in an increasingly competitive market.

And then there's Amon Tobin.

See also:

-Amon Tobin on ISAM 2.0: "Strange and Heavy as F#%& With an Equally Messed-Up Story"

-Ten Best DJ Booths in EDM: From DJ Shadow to Skrillex, Avicii, and Daft Punk

This Brazilian producer doesn't just slap together any old light show in an attempt to impress. The whole presentation, from music to visuals to amplification, is carefully composed to yield a most mesmerizing and captivating atmosphere, meaningful from beginning to end.

The lull between opening act The Holy Other and Amon Tobin was tense and full of anxious energy. The intermission music was low and slow, speeding up and growing louder as the minutes passed. Now and then, the crowd would emit a roar, hopeful that the red curtain on stage was about to peel back.

Finally at 10:04 p.m., the speakers boomed, the people whistled, and the lights dimmed. The curtain slowly came up to reveal a massive geometrical arrangement of white cloth squares, stacked like babies' blocks on the floor. It took up the entire stage and the man of the hour was hidden inside the center block.

For the next hour and a half, it would be near impossible for anyone to look away.

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The giant thing lit up with red and blue flashing lights. The rig went up in flames, then transformed into a mechanical wonder, clinking and clacking in perfect sync with the rhythmic music that boomed through everyone's chests.

The whole shebang shot out from two projectors in the middle of the room on either side of the soundboard. The name of the game is video projection mapping, creating a realistic illusion and endless possibilities.

Tobin's show is called ISAM, and he performs his entire album of the same name from beginning to end, bringing somewhat intangible sounds to life with this very tactile presentation. Each song even had its own accompanying visual.

Machinery gave way to starry images of deep space. Then an X-winged ship came into view. And later, we were transported inside the ship itself. We moved through its white, sterile halls until we saw an astronaut sitting calmly in the middle. All of a sudden, the center square lit up and Amon Tobin could be seen rocking his gear, actually dressed in an astronaut suit. This was the man who would take us on our journey.

The ship burst into flames. And as the producer rocked his body to the music, it really looked like he was trying to fix some catastrophic system failure. Throughout the conceptual set, it felt like we were being told a story; one whose message was universal, but whose plot was always just beyond reach.

The music itself was dichotomous and exciting. It was simultaneously alien and familiar, synthetic and organic. There were a lot of seemingly earthly sound bites, like marching boots and falling water, but just as many bleeps and bloops.

About halfway through his set and then again during his encore, the Brazilian mastermind came out from behind his block-castle and bowed to a most appreciative audience. The first time, he came out in his astronaut suit. The second time, sweating in a dark shirt. He shook hands and threw his arms in the air, all the while being showered with adoration and respect. Everyone in the building was clearly impressed.

He dropped sounds reminiscent of industrial, dubstep, and even a few drum 'n' bass tracks near the end of the evening. He had everyone raging in their seats and bouncing on the floor. But at 11:34, the time had finally come to bring the night to a close.

Everyone screamed, hollered, and woo-ed at the top of their lungs, hoping the man would come back out. But then the lights flickered on and the curtain fell.

So people filed out on the red-carpeted floor, asking their friends, "What the hell did we just witness?"

Certainly one of the greatest shows EDM has to offer. And nothing less.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Amend the list of greatest DJ booths in EDM immediately.

The Crowd: People of all ages and scenes. Everyone who's cool enough to know this was something not to be missed.

Best Visual: The spaceship on fire with Amon Tobin rocking out in the middle of it all. But some of the geometric patterns and light combinations brought out the coolest parts of the video mapping technology.

Astronaut Suit: For the win.

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