Concert Previews

Show Preview: Amon Tobin at Clemson 9/19

By Jordan Young

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On September 19th, something colossal is touching down in South Carolina.

World renowned musical pioneer Amon Tobin will be showcasing his brand new audiovisual masterpiece ISAM Live 2.0 at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts at Clemson University. This is one of the few Southeastern stops on his North American tour debuting the expanded project, and the Brooks Center is the most intimate setting on the list.

You can grab tickets at the Brooks Center website, $35 for adults and $30 for students.

ISAM Live employs a technique called projection mapping which sympathetically places digital imagery onto physical structures. The effect gained is kin to 3D without the glasses. Surreal and jaw dropping, the clusters of cubes that comprise the ISAM structure will leave you speechless.

The technical spectacle is centered on Amon Tobin’s seventh studio album ISAM in which the sonic artist takes pride in distancing his style from traditional and recognizable veins of electronic music. His approach to sound design has a tone and character all its own.

If you’re unfamiliar with electronic music production, a quick lesson is in order. Most people are now familiar with the concept of sampling, stealing bits and pieces from songs to construct new ones, but Amon Tobin employs an aesthetic many refer to as “found sound” in which the producer samples noises found in the real world and uses them as the instrumental basis for the music. These sounds, in Amon’s case, can be as complex as heavy machinery or as mundane as a chair squeaking. He then uses heavy effects processing to craft entirely unique instruments out of these sound sources.

Some of this creative process can be seen here:

A lot of the magic of ISAM is in the juxtaposition between the natural, organic qualities of the sounds used and the obscure, alien context the production threads them through. ISAM plays out as if you were encountering technology incarnate or exploring the mechanistic jungle of a distant planet. Mammoth sonic landmarks and rhythmically intricate creatures populate the album’s atmospheric soundscapes. Even with all of the unyielding beats and rigid edges, the whole animal is fluid and corporeal.

I was fortunate enough to witness ISAM Live 1.0 at Moogfest last October, and I can attest to the claim that no matter how many videos you watch of the structure in action, you cannot get the same sense of depth and impact as you can from physically being there, dwarfed by its grandeur. The machine proves itself versatile enough to compliment each of the distinct nuances of the mystifying score that is ISAM. At once, it is murky, shapeless void only to sporadically evolve into interwoven constellations of dancing stars. Digital landscapes also favor the geometric construction allowing for the oscillating and flickering hallmarks of modern technology to express themselves. The moments of highest gravitas come when the structure takes on a motorized nature. Shocks, pistons, and an array of gears all work in tandem with the clanky, sputtering, mechanical beats and samples. The experience is dumbfounding. You are not dancing; you are gaping in awe.

For some behind the scenes insight, check out the Creators Project preview of ISAM 2.0:

Additions for ISAM 2.0 include new audio/visual elements, material from Amon’s forthcoming, beat-oriented Two Fingers project, and, of course, the structure is twice as big.

Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of electronic music, this is an artistic excursion you will not forget about any time soon. Nothing will push your cerebral buttons quite like this illusive showcase of engineering wonder. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity.

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