Band of the Day

2012.08.11

Amon Tobin

A legendary electronic music pioneer explores otherworldly sounds and melodies
Taking substantial inspiration from jazz, the albums are warm and dense, merging the manic intensity of bebop and free jazz with jungle and ambient techno.
from Band of the Day Review

Amon Tobin is a Brazilian-born electronic musician who garnered notice in the early ‘90s with his first album release Adventures In Foam. The album’s innovative sound was noticed by several of the UK’s successful electronic artists and led to his subsequent signing to the label Ninja Tune in 1996. Tobin is a self-trained musician, his first experimentations with sound conducted in his bedroom as a teenager in Brighton, England. Since his entry into the music world, Tobin has maintained a prodigious output that includes seven albums, soundtracks for video games inFAMOUS and Splinter Cell and collaborations with such artists as the classically-based Kronos Quartet and the Dutch musical trio Noisia. Selections of his work have been performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. His latest studio album, ISAM, was released in early 2011.

Now 15 years into his career, it's fair to say that Amon Tobin has achieved legendary status. The Brazil-born, England-raised electronic music producer has managed to build a huge and fervent following out of dark, atmospheric landscapes. His songs buzz, growl and clank menacingly, sounding closer to the soundtrack of an avant film than a pop record; yet, his music is undeniably melodic and often quite accessible.

Tobin's music career began as a University student in Brighton in the mid-'90s, first releasing his distinct brand of heavily sampled compositions in 1996. With growing success as a musician, he abandoned his photography degree and devoted himself to music full time, releasing the landmark album Bricolage in 1997 and Permutation in 1998. Taking substantial inspiration from jazz, the albums are warm and dense, merging the manic intensity of bebop and free jazz with jungle and ambient techno. Tobin continued to produce spectacular records throughout the early 2000s, albums that could most simply be described as drum and bass, but included enough rich vintage samples and stuttering sounds to make it something uniquely Amon Tobin.

Tobin's latest effort, 2011's Isam, isn't a complete departure from the work he first became known for, but it is a clear shift away from jam-packed jazz samples and bustling beats. Isam shows a fascination with the creation of sound. Much of the album was created by the careful recording of various sounds—the creaking of a chair, light bulbs hitting each other—which Tobin then manipulates beyond recognition. On “Lost and Found,” for example, drums boom and crunch, while synths like otherworldly choirs sweep in over the sharp twang of some kind of unusual stringed instruments. It's the kind of music that justifies $1000 headphones. “Journeyman” would be an excellent soundtrack to a hallucinatory exploration of some alien jungle climate at night. Sounds zip and skitter around like giant insects while bells tinkle and chime brightly, and anthemic synth chords bring you back to the 2010s.

Amon Tobin is an unlikely crowd pleaser on the surface, but his music is infused with huge breadth, scope and ambition. Take his live show for example. Tobin tours with a giant cube that comes to life through projections, pulsing and morphing in conjunction with the music. It's a mighty, awe-inspiring spectacle and the perfect foil to his music.