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Isam

Isam

May 24, 2011
3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product Details

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Amon Tobin's recent work can be divided into two realms: Groovy, music-sample-based videogame soundtrack albums, and foley-sample-based musique concrete (or whatever the electronic version of musique concrete is). For whatever reason, Tobin's recent soundtrack music is his most inspired work, while his serious music albums tend to be fun-free affairs. For example, "Foley Room" was rather plodding (though good) compared to the much more enjoyable "Chaos Theory" soundtrack to the Splinter Cell video game.

Now here we are again: Tobin's recent videogame soundtrack, for "inFAMOUS," is fantastic. His "Monthly Joints Series" tracks (which do not seem to be in album form) are similarly great, in the mold of classic Amon Tobin along the lines of his "Bricolage" and "Permutation" double-whammy. You'll have to dig around online to find them. Meanwhile, Tobin's new "proper" album, ISAM, is a thick, cold, and slow-tempo slab of frustration.

ISAM seems to stand for Indexed Sequential Access Method, a data method developed by IBM for mainframe computers. Perhaps this is Tobin's way of saying he's getting back to basics and keeping it simple? Much of the music reminds me of the sounds that might be made by giant slabs of metal computer components landing with a "thunk" in some ethereal otherworld.

Almost every track goes something like this: (whooshing, eerie sounds...) THUNK! (more distant, echoey sounds....) WHOMP! (circular, mysterious guitar-like noodlings....) BASSY KER-PLONK! Form, structure? Forget it -- this is totally free-form.

If you're looking for music that has a driving, infectious rhythm, this is not it. Nor is it evocative in a smooth, hypnotic Brian Eno way -- there's too much up-and-down, soft-and-loud, nerve-racking randomness for that.
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A new Amon Tobin album is a cause for major celebration. He spends a lot of time working on each album, putting more thought into every overlapping layer of sound than anyone else I know of. And while many of my favorite albums by my favorite artists get worn down by repetition, I continuously find new angles to explore Amon's tracks, on everything from Adventures in Foam to Isam.

And here it is - Isam. In ways it resembles the orchestration of environmental sounds that highlight Foley Room. At times the menacing depths of Chaos Theory emerge suddenly and threaten to suck you in. But these comparisons are shallow and really only serve to get you to buy it. Now.

And once you have sat in a dark room, with your finest headphones firmly attached to your cranium, and listened to every last drop, you'll confirm for yourself what you probably already know. Amon Tobin never sounds like anyone or anything else, and crafts each album in such a way that it is an entity with a life of its own, designed to capture an era in his life and to become the soundtrack for an era of your own.
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Format: Audio CD
I am a huge Amon Tobin fan (enough so I even shelled out for the deluxe ISAM box with vinyl, CD, book and t-shirt), collecting everything he's put out from his early "Cujo" days to his recent "Two Fingers" rap efforts. In my opinion, he is undeniably one of the most groundbreaking electronic musicians working today.

In this context, ISAM is a fascinating work of aural art and ideally suited for headphones (as another reviewer has mentioned) but is it actually music, as opposed to a collection of sonic "landscapes"? I myself am not so sure.

It is certainly an interesting listen, but not something I think I will be playing with any frequency. If, like me, your favorite Amon Tobin albums are "Permuation" and "Supermodified" and you were somewhat frustrated with "Foley Room", you will also be frustrated by this album, as it continues, indeed extends the sonic collage aspects of the last album while almost completely lacking anything approaching a groove or a rhythm.
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Format: MP3 Music
I am the sixth reviewer for this album on this site which means that I read all the other reviewers' comments. I am listening to the album now for the fourth or fifth time overall but for the first time closely. I have been a fan of Amon Tobin for a long time, since Permutations. I have heard and seen him live and I have introduced his music to many people. He is certainly an icon for me but he is not the only one and many others have come after. I think he's one talented guy who has an amazing ear for sound, texture and mood.

Which brings me to ISAM. I agree with all five reviewers at some level and don't disagree with them when they are at their most critical. If I were to add something to what has already been said, I would say that ISAM is an album that requires utter attention. It is not jarring or difficult like Zs last album, and it is not engaging in any dance or beat-oriented way. It is a collage of enjoyable textures. It is, perhaps, art music. It is definitely very ambitious. In fact, I would like to see a modern dance performance or some experimental film set to ISAM - if anyone were to dare. Maybe some of the other negative reviewers were a bit harsh, expecting something akin to his previous work. The album has treasures like "Kitty Cat" or its follow-up "Bedtime Stories" along with some others that have already been mentioned. Is this is a transitional album?

If you want to enjoy ISAM, and there is lots to enjoy, sit with it in the dark with your best system. You must fall in. Otherwise, it'll just strike you as ploying and annoying.
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