AMEN, TOBIN – ISAM: LIVE [October 25, 2011]

On October 25, 2011, Wilson & I went headed up to Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple to witness Amon Tobin’s ISAM: LIVE. Everything that’s come afterwards will now be known as post-ISAM.


On October 25, 2011, Wilson & I went headed up to Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple to witness Amon Tobin’s ISAM: LIVE. Now, a simple Google search of “ISAM LIVE” will direct you to a plethora of reviews, commentaries, theories, and other insight. To review what Wilson & I there in that Masonic Temple in Brooklyn would be little more than a rehashing of beguiled and the wonder invoked by ISAM: LIVE. Therefore, I went through every page of every ISAM: LIVE review I could find online, extracted the best adjectives, alliteration, verbs, nouns, similes and metaphors found in the pages upon pages of ISAM:LIVE reviews, reassembled them, and created that which is written below. Wilson took the photos.

Ever since Daft Punk’s giant pyramid, electronic acts have recognized the need for a sensory stage show–Justice and their wall of Marshall amps; Deadmau5 and his Rubik’s cube. These novelties have made live electronic music more visually interesting, and have helped sell more tickets, but they’ve so far been just that–novelties, meant to give the audience something to look at while somebody stands at a laptop computer.
Amon Tobin’s current ISAM: LIVE tour, on the other hand, belongs in a museum.

Developing the visual show alongside Amon is the award winning, internationally published V Squared Labs in collaboration with LVTHN. Leading the animation and interactive team are directors Vello Virkhaus & Matt Daly. The show features a stunning 25′ x 14′ x 8′ multi-dimensional/ shape shifting 3-D art installation surrounding Tobin and enveloping him and the audience in a beyond 3-D experience. A fantastic visual journey to accompany ISAM.

The result is an abstract narrative, subtle and bombastic – using projection mapping, generative/audio reactive real time and pre-rendered elements combined with custom software to control the show. The result is that ISAM: LIVE creates a visual incarnation of the album’s sounds.

ISAM: LIVE is Amon Tobin’s Metropolis. In a series of wordless images, Tobin makes a bold statement on technology and its omnipresence in our modern universe–terrifying one minute, beautiful the next. The combined effect is a 3D experience where the cubes move even though they’re not moving; where the sculpture floats through space even though it is immobile; where a parallel universe exists with shape-shifting factories, angry jet engines and mechanized factory clangs competing with brilliant, serene patterns and transformative optical illusions. Like all great art, the production is thought-provoking, challenging and stunning. Submitting to it is pure glee.

And in the center of all this, in a cube larger than the others, is Tobin, occasionally lit from within. These reveals–that there is, in fact, a human involved–pull the curtain back on a spectacle that’s seemingly created solely from silicon, and enshrine the production as a triumph not only of technological engineering but of cranial ingenuity.

Tobin has described this latest phase in his career as ‘future sounds imperfected’. And it is unquestionably refreshing to witness an artist not adhering to the current impasse of retro-culture, as Tobin’s performance is bereft of any overtly ersatz nods to the past. Coming over like the colossal aggregate of Einsturzende Neubauten and Squarepusher, plotting a whole new course for electronic music.

In person, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer mathematics of the display. In one jaw-dropping moment, the projector shot out a static grid of white lines perfectly picking out every edge of the set, with the faces of the cubes plunged into darkness. Just as you marvel at the power, resolution, and accuracy required, the image animates and the cubes apparently tumble away, the integrity of their forms perfectly preserved, and the set dematerializes before your eyes. Of course, these moments coincide with the stuttering climaxes of Tobin’s intricate collages of found sounds and recordings.

It doesn’t sound like much in writing, and words can never do justice to the sheer majesty of the performance.


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