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11 October 2011, 12:30 am 23 Comments

San Francisco: TNG Review: ISAM TOUR – Amon Tobin @ Warfield SF 10/ 1

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Event Details: TNG Review: ISAM TOUR – Amon Tobin @ Warfield SF 10/ 1 - :

By Beatrice Lazar

The ISAM tour of Amon Tobin is a visual display of introverted guts. ISAM is the name of Amon’s latest album released on the famed British indie label, Ninja Tunes. The label is in its 20th year (that’s a HUGE feat for an indie label) and has a niche spotlight on all things abstract – eclectic – electronic. When Brazilian born DJ Amon Tobin steps out of his massive white building block structure that towers his entire concert stage, his body language is humble and he hardly strikes you as the wizard who has invoked the creation of the worlds one succumbs to in his show. Photographers in the pit seize the moment to capture the DJ who will only been seen in full view twice during his performance. Unless you count the part where he interacts with us from within the structure, real time,
via a Microsoft connect camera. At that point his body blows up over the height of the structure in the form of one of those 3-Dimensional pin sculpture toys. The effects are enormous and eerily astute.

Since the early 90’s Amon has been known as an electronic sampling DJ and producer in underground rave scenes. In addition to the extravagant light show tour, he also collaborated an exhibit with London based visual artist Tessa Farmer “ISAM: Control Over Nature”. Tessa created miniature worlds with organic elements colliding with the futuristic; like tiny zapping flying skeleton fairies inhabiting a carcass of a cats body – Amon’s track “Kitty Cat”. The show was in London’s Crypt Gallery and reached people
who may not have otherwise been exposed to Amon’s music. With the Internet being a major experience source, it is easy to become a mere tourist of an artists music. I like this idea of new ways to more deeply engage with music using more than just the medium of
music itself.

For the live music tour, Amon performs from within a 5,000 lb apparatus made of secret trade ingredients that in the show has the appearance of being very lightweight. The relationship of this structure within its space is enthralling. It is a simple set of white
building bocks. Some blocks are piled up high upon each other and others protrude out into the abyss of space, insinuating endless creativity. Apparently it’s no easy technical feat to project images onto this dynamic material. Each track has such a range of dynamic imagery. There is the sense of endless ideas, creativity continuously building upon itself, breaking down, fizzling up, some resurfacing, some zipping in and zapping out never to be seen again. The visual clarity created with shading, glassy effects on transparent dancing cubes, billowing snowy smoke poufs, futuristic spaceship adventures and acute thin lines twittering into giant green and blue bouncy oscillating sound waves of heavenly glowing light – is all beyond mesmerizing. The lights don’t seem contained to their canvas. You feel spiraled in to a twizzling black hole where expansion is endless. I found myself having to take a step back to remind myself I was a spectator. The consensus of the audience was “ mind
blowing”, “never seen anything like that”, “can’t begin to imagine the technology that went into that!”

Every aspect of the music is expressed. It’s really so fucking satisfying. When I dance to experimental music I find myself making decisions about what aspects to grab on to. Some sounds get away before you can engage with them, others are too abstract to interpret or it’s physically impossible to respond to more than one at the same time. Therefore, to see such precise visualizations of each sound is ground breaking satisfaction for music as experimental as Amon’s.

There are unsettling feelings about this show. Audiences express resistance to the idea of a DJ show being so video centric. I think it’s admirable Amon takes on a whole new media extension to explain his music. Perhaps there is fear that the light show creates
something so unrealistic and so realistic at the same time, creating a whole new reality, which is so enticing that we will forget ourselves. I think this fear is a good sign about how this art reaches our humanity.

There is one larger cube that protrudes from the centre of the structure. Its material allows transparency at points in the show. Amon Tobin is in inside this cube and it is a comforting reminder that there is a human responsible for these theatrics.

The show ended with tinkering lullaby sounds and images of fluttering playful cubes falling up themselves and eventually fading away. You feel uplifted and safely returned from a very trippy dream. The work that went into this show was a true collaboration with
Vello and VSL Labs and Amon, himself. It wasn’t a case of just handing off music to a tech team. I was told Amon had loads of reference points from movies, visual art pieces and so on and that hours and hours of collaborative discussion went into this.

In true concert celebratory fashion a shower of white confetti brings the audience together near the end of the performance. The confetti pieces are not so tiny as standard confetti- being larger they seem to celebrate us, they are like small token pieces of the white building blocks – and I felt like we are them – the experience felt confirming of the utterly immersive experience … so immersive I felt a longing for flowers – a need for something that would bring me back to earth – a reminder so profound from a lost world. I did feel that this show gavea warning: “ What we create is much bigger than ourselves.” Like I said – display of introverted guts.


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