The artist at sound check. Beware the Fog of Doom that’s enveloping the stage! Photo (CC-BY)

With a full length record, we also get a glimpse into sound design and live touch control, along with a cross-media event involving photography and sculpture. It’s the latest Amon Tobin, and for lovers of digital sonic manipulation, it’s big news.

Amon Tobin’s ISAM arrived this week, and it’s an epic opus of ambience and digitally-sculpted sound candy. It’s digitally-distorted without being glitch, off on cinematic reveries through noise before breaking into the odd deep-bass break. It’s also a virtuoso solo album on digital control via the Haken Continuum Fingerboard. Like that instrument, it seems free in its exploration of sound space, totally untethered from gravity.

A lot of it is pure synthesis, says the artist, though there are plenty of recorded vocals, too. (I assume when Tobin says there are “no samples,” he means “…of other people’s sounds,” as there’s definitely a lot of recording, unless he’s been holding off on us and he actually is a robot, thus making a direct digital connection to his computer.) I could imagine some finding the endless digital stretching effects and morphs and punctuation fatiguing, but tracks don’t overstay their welcome; each is a miniature sonic tableaux, and delicate moments balance the bass-ier staccato scenes.

You can have a listen without any particular narration, but Amon makes use of the commenting feature on SoundCloud to provide little annotations about what he’s doing and what you’re hearing. The full album is available on SoundCloud and sounds reasonably listenable as a 128k MP3 stream – certainly good enough to determine whether you love or hate this, and whether you want to buy a proper, high-quality download.

‘ISAM’ – Full album with track-by-track commentary from Amon Tobin by Amon Tobin

‘ISAM’ – Full album with track-by-track commentary from Amon Tobin by Amon Tobin

Via Topspin, there’s also a download of one track available. (See our notes on Topspin earlier this week.)

Want the album?

Buy direct from Amon Tobin if you’re in the US or most parts of the world or —

Buy from Ninja Tune if you’re in the UK/EU to save a few euros/pounds

The other unique aspect of this release is its multimedia versions. In addition to the digital release and t-shirts and whatnot, we get:

  • The installation. Saatchi Collection artist Tessa Farmer works with Amon Tobin on a collaborative installation that employs the creepy, beautiful organic dead insects and other creatures in her sculpture. May 26 – June 3 at (aptly) The Crypt Gallery in London – let us know, readers, if you’re in London and can make it.
  • The AV show. Amon Tobin has made a lot of doing audiovisual performances. These promise to be particularly involved, however. The artist will be presenting a live audiovisual show for Montreal’s MUTEK on June 1, which I expect may prove to be a real highlight of this summer’s event calendar. Also in June, he’ll take the show to Berlin, Brussels, and London’s Roundhouse.
  • The photography. Working with the same materials, there’s some heavily evocative photography to enjoy, too, available on the site. Put that in full screen, crank the album, and bliss out.

All of this is covered on the official site for the album:

Making Of…

Spectral morphing is at the heart of the work on this album. As such, I would view the record’s process as an extension of a continuum (cough) with some of the landmark electronic albums of the 90s and 2000s rather than something wholly new. But I think it can be enjoyed just as that, as a kind of Baroque take on lush digital sound design. A making-of video explains the sound production work:

Here you can see the artist playing on the aforementioned Continuum instrument:

I’ll be curious to hear thoughts on this.

  • Mister Snnnrub

    Nice, sounds killer!! Looking forward to giving this a proper listen. 
    Some of this stuff reminds me of the kyma system being controlled by the finder board.

  • Mister Snnnrub

    Oops… finder meaning finger

  • This provides great insights, the videos in particular. I'm now much better able to appreciate the work, which at first sounded a bit too abstract for me, compared to what I'm used to from Amon. One of our greatest producers! Amazing instrument he plays in the videos.
    I'm looking forward to the book and CD edition that I preordered and was very excited about the early mp3 release date (although less happy about the circumstances why it was released early.)

  • Nc23

    Is it totally wrong to compare with FSOL's Lifeforms album?

  • Ken Adams

    as a sound design gig it's imho all around awesome stuff.  speaking musically it's got a few high spots for me: "wooden toy" and "bedtime stories".

    i'm really digging that i can go view the commentary stuff…

  • twoism

    Just went to buy it, $20 for the LP and digital download. Great deal, huh? Until you get to the part about the $34.95 shipping and handling. Sale lost, natch.

  • Peter Kirn

    @twoism: Is that in the US? Outside the US, they recommend buying from the UK/Europe store at NinjaTune. (If it's in the US, no explanation – but speaking as someone dealing with shipping, it's no picnic.)

  • digid

    Flac is 8.99 pounds at Boomkat. With the pound so cheap, shouldn't be a problem.

  • Amon Tobin is one of the view pioneers left still making fresh music. From a time that all good music came from Cornwall, a time where everything was new.

    He is the only one of that generation that I still look forward to hear his new album, every time again, wondering what he's been up to now. 

    Single biggest influence in EM on my work.

  • s ford


    where are you based?  i post on the NTF (his label's forum) and can find out what's going on; the price of postage you mentioned seems a bit harsh.  if you're based in canada/usa there's a NT shop there so the shipping cost should be lower….

    amon is a legend.  i thought he'd struggle to follow up 'the foley room' but the general opinion is that ISAM is just as good!  

  • Damon

    That's where synthesis loves me.

  • LeMel

    Thanks so much for posting this. I listened to the album today. It went straight onto my buy list. These tracks refuse to resolve into the expected, yet they maintain a pacing that is deliberate and  orchestrated. I don't have the musical knowledge to really explain what listening to this did to me. This is really something. And this coming from Amon Tobin who has already accomplished so much. Talk about next level.

  • Those continuum's look awesome!

  • Daaaaaang. Killer.

  • I'm looking foward to my trip to the US, and hopefully be able to get a copy of this. Amon Tobin is one of my favorites as well and it sounds great. I like what you said about the 128k mp3 stream, you can figure if you really want a high quality copy of the album (I can't imagine someone who wouldn't want it)

    @Peter Kirn I envy that on UK/USA/Europe countries, the shipping may be expensive, but it's doable, i don't even want to imagine the shipping pricing and delay problems here in Ecuador.

  • antonio Apr 29 2011

    I’m looking foward to my trip to the US, and hopefully be able to get a copy of this. Amon Tobin is one of my favorites as well and it sounds great. I like what you said about the 128k mp3 stream, you can figure if you really want a high quality copy of the album (I can’t imagine someone who wouldn’t want it)

    @Peter Kirn I envy that on UK/USA/Europe countries, the shipping may be expensive, but it’s doable, i don’t even want to imagine the shipping pricing and delay problems here in Ecuador

  • anyway, this man is a genius of sound creation, i heard that is mostly made out of acoustic modeling and the continuum seems the most logical way to go in order to play it.

  • coteaa

    thanks for the post -not loving the stuff at the end (the tribute/influences), but do love the sounds that are more experimental. Opus though??

  • eidetic

    While I'm a big fan of Amon's work, I must admit this album hasn't quite grabbed me yet. I think it's lacking some of the musicality of his earlier work, though that may be deliberate on his part. I do still think his best work was during the Supermodified/Out From Out Where era. However, I'll persevere with ISAM though!

  • How is this a "magnum opus"?
    "Uneven LP that would be above-average, even noteworthy, from a lesser artist" seems more accurate.
    Some of the ideas here just don't work, mang.

  • bar|none

    Re @twoism's shipping. Just bought the LP as well. the $34 is for overnight express delivery, just pick priority or standard ship instead. It might be better to make the standard ship the default. Love it that double vinyl is an option here.

    Haven't had the chance to listen to this whole album yet, but what I have heard so far is blowing me away. It's not easy to create sounds that are so unique and expressive. Huge kudos for such an achievement and can't wait to explore the album more.

  • Another Amon fan here. Supermodified/Out From Out Where are GREAT records. So far this is just "ok".

    Amon Tobin is genius when he samples other peoples records. When he's dealing with he's original recordings he's not so great.

    Sadly there is a pattern. Dj Shadow, RJD2 and Amon Tobin all did great things on their first two albums. As they went for more "original" sound with less samples from records the quality (or musicality) went down as well.

    Gonna buy ISAM anyway.

  • magnum opus?

    isam a "magnum opus"? really? been listening to tobin since bricolage and i've  followed his move into more avant-garde territory but now that he considers himself a sound designer, a whole different set of standards applies. its the pompous tone in his soundcloud comments that forces me to make these comparisons. compared to some of the "left-field" works by artists like autechre, matmos, squarepusher, isam seems only mildly inspired and compared to sound designers like Ron MacLeod, tobin sounds like a amateur. sorry.

  • Aaron

    @NC23 : I was thinking of the same thing, but the Dead Cities record instead.. even has some of the same dark feel to it. I like alot of what I've heard.. havent had the chance to listen to it all the way through yet though.

  • Peter Kirn

    "Magnum opus" I typically take to mean a commentary on the grandest *scale* of work – not ever necessarily going to people people's favorite. In this case, Amon Tobin took his sort of purest sound design techniques – hence the sound design magnum opus – and spun them into a full-length. Whether you like the result is entirely dependent on whether that was what you liked best about his work to begin with. He himself says it's not about sampling other records.

  • I wonder what the critque would have been if he was still sampling records…

  • really cool…greate sound..

  • coteaa

    oh smider – you are excellent!! props to you here!!

  • So much cool videos! Thanks for your good job!

  • The sound design is fantastic, but most of the songs lack musicality (melodies).

    I was a big fan of his Supermodified album, but his newer work lacks musicality.

  • cek

    No melodies? What are you guys listening to? I find myself humming and drumming along to this whole album personally. Sure the sound design isn't "perfect" but its something even better – enthusiastic. You can feel the joy that comes through his manipulation of the space between your ears, and it makes for a great record. I liked Foley Room a little more, but this is yet another installment from the most interesting producer on the planet.

  • Which microphone is that?