Release Date: May 24, 2011
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Techno, Pop/Rock, Experimental Techno
Someone leaked ISAM on April 14. Who cares, right? Every album leaks, some way ahead of “schedule”, others close to the actual release date. Who cares if ISAM comes with a remarkably elaborate packaging and art book to supplant the music with appropriate and necessary visual stimuli? Who cares if there’s an ISAM installation from May 26 - June 5 in London to coincide with the album’s physical release? Who cares if Amon Tobin embarks on a groundbreaking live tour that also coincides with the album’s physical release? Who cares if Tobin and visual artist Terry Farmer worked on this project for years? And, of course, who cares if that leak was somewhere around 192 kbps? Ninja Tune was phased by the leak, but not crippled.
Amon Tobin made his name with the most distinctive sampladelic electronica in the business, and kept at it for longer than most, but eventually began trading in samples of jazz vinyl for field recordings and bands he’s captained. ISAM is his second straight invisible soundtrack, after 2007’s Foley Room, and as before, it shows Tobin fascinated with the science of sound. Short on beats but long on atmosphere, ISAM plays out like the soundtrack to some bizarre nature documentary: it continually pauses, goes off in another direction, halts again, then sits unmoving for a time, as though Tobin had been musically ghosting the movements of a tiny insect traveling along a leaf.
The work of London-based Brasileiro producer Amon Tobin feels not so much textural — as opposed to predominantly rhythmic or melodic — as it does tactile. Even in his earliest jazzbo drum-and-bass experiments as Cujo, he’s dealt with sound as a physical entity that threatens to thrash open the mesh casing on your speakers and drop thudding and squirming onto the floor. Bass-heavy dance music might take on a physical dimension, and sunn 0))) or Merzbow might depend on concrete impact, but even Matthew Herbert’s Bodily Functions and Around The House, albums built exclusively from the sounds of the human body and household objects, respectively, aren’t as notably connected to the sense of touch as Tobin’s recent output.
This is theoretically a fantastic time for Amon Tobin to return to form. The Montreal producer cut his teeth on drum and bass in the late 1990s, proving time and again he was one of the genre's most creative practitioners. Meanwhile, for the past two or three years, labels like Med School, Critical, and NonPlus+ have helped free drum and bass from a creative stasis.