AMON TOBIN: ISAM 2.0
Hammersmith Apollo | March 8th
If this truly is to be the last offering of Amon Tobin’s mesmeric ISAM project, then Crack’s eyes are truly pissed off about it.
It’s borderline impossible to assemble worthy adjectives to convey what a visual experience it is to watch Tobin’s stage-filling construction. Senses are heightened to such a degree that every transition is greeted with audible gasps from a crowd that knew what to expect, and larger gasps from those in the audience whose mate had dragged them along and didn’t have a clue what abstract electronica was, let alone ISAM 2.0.
The magnitude of this gig was exemplified by Tobin’s attire, for the first half at least, donning a spacesuit inside the cubic centre of the ISAM creation from which he works his magic. A gig of galactic proportions? Perhaps. Expectations were certainly way above the usual base camp.
Certainly the visuals complimented the futuristic theme, with spacecraft, stars, nebulas, and symmetrical patterns all mapped brilliantly onto the Tetris-style stage construction. The transitions from each visual treat to the next were frequent and seamless, often paired with the musical shudders emanating from Tobin’s booth.
But this is ISAM, and ISAM is widely regarded by experts, paupers and probably Jesus as the best visual creation ever to grace electronic music. That side of it, bar a power-cut, was never really going to disappoint. Yet this wasn’t a gig without fault. Logistically it wasn’t great that, considering it was pissing down outside, the speed at which the venue filled up was criminally slow, so much so you could see anxious stage managers and Tobin’s management milling around outside clearly distressed at the situation. It sucks waiting an hour to get in any venue in the rain and the result was the space suited Brazilian got onstage fifteen minutes late, with a sizeable queue still outside. In a venue of The Apollo’s experience and reputation it’s difficult to find excuses.
What is also hard to fathom is the relationship between the stage-show and the music on display, the latter of which displayed a lack of real clarity throughout. The initial stages provided the atmospheric introduction you’d expect, a stirring of the senses for the inevitable musical bombast to match the grandiosity of the stage structure. Backed my a monumental sound system, Tobin’s skewed rhythms, breakbeat, drum and bass and dubstep informed the majority of proceedings, but alas the set never reached its peak. With much of the dubstep on display of the dubious, Skrillex-informed mid-range variety and seemingly no cohesion between the odd moments of intensity, you were left looking into an abyss. Admittedly, a beautiful looking abyss.
Even the encore, after Tobin had stepped from the construction to salute the crowd, was a series of ambient swirls – hardly a memorable note on which to leave. It’s always the danger when you have such an intensive visual aspect, that the rest of the experience struggles to match the giddy heights of the sensory colossus alongside which it runs. Tonight there was a frustrating gulf between possibility and reality.
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Words: Thomas Frost
Photos: Kate Molins