Isam - Amon Tobin

Ninja Tune

It’s amazing to me that such a focused work of creative self-indulgence can be delivered with such humility and love for the listener. It's a true mark of genius. Isam is another example of why Amon Tobin has earned a place in the pantheon of progressive musical thought along with people like Pink Floyd, Larry Fast and Isao Tomita. But, technology has empowered Tobin to a point of overshadowing the contributions of these others, who used the early inventions of Robert Moog and other electronic music pioneers to create new worlds of sound. Amon Tobin, on the other hand, is a gardener who selects choice clippings from the world we know and manipulates those noises and atmospheres into sweeping vistas of science fiction, and alien arrangements of such stunning intensity, they reawaken sleeping senses to a much broader spectrum of sound. Tobin’s creations are as much the result of foley work as music composition. The result of this massaging and manipulation is a pastiche of pure, perfected audio elements, so each track on Isam leaps off the disc with the apparent effect of an added dimension. It’s like watching a 3D movie (a GOOD 3D movie). Speaking of visuals, the album packaging is breath-taking. Visions of tiny be-winged alien creatures pulling the antennae off a butterfly or milling about the decaying skull of a Grim-like dog are both unsettling and astonishing. Unlike his last Ninja release, Foley Room, Isam is not a concept album, though a prevailing theme of a highly creative mind a play is an obvious thread between the disparate compositions. No drums were used though many of the tracks will kill on the dance floor. The most mundane activities like “harming a piece of paper” become key voices while voices, such as Tobin’s own are synthesized and gender-reassigned to add a female choral effect. His inspirations read like the best sci-fi, describing one of the album’s opening tracks as representing an ancient machine groaning into life after being dormant for eons. It’s brilliant stuff that would only be tarnished, were it to garner Tobin something as trite as a Grammy Award. There should be a Nobel Prize for something of Isam’s contribution to our better understanding of sonic possibilities.