Amon Tobin makes damn good background music, and I mean that as a compliment. Every single album flows forth as a seamless creation, so fitting for lazy summer days on the beach, walks in the park, subway rides, and so on. It’s perfect music for being alone and just letting your mind wander, yet it also has a way of keeping you on your toes when you find yourself wondering what that sound is.
Tobin mostly uses Cubase software and gets his samples from field recordings and his record collection. He cites David Lynch and Brazilian musician Bebel Gilberto as a few of his influences. He has been featured widely on video game and film soundtracks. (I guarantee that even if you say you haven’t heard of him, you’ve heard him.)
On his studio album prior to this, Foley Room, he ventured quite heavily into samples obtained from live recordings in a foley studio, true to the title of the album. ISAM, while still utilizing found sounds, focuses more on the rhythmic and melodic elements of those sounds, which is truly hypnotizing. Some tracks have an almost whimsical, cinematic quality, such as “Wooden Toy,” which features sampled vocals drenched in reverb and delay and a plinking, almost childlike melody. Others evoke a Thomas Dolby/Brian Eno vibe that one could almost call “retro,” particularly in the case of the first track, “Journeyman.” The final track on the album, “Dropped From The Sky,” is reminiscent of early Aphex Twin both in tempo and mood. My other personal favorite is “Kitty Cat,” a precisely edited groove beneath sing-song, nursery rhyme lyrics.
The physical release of ISAM has the added bonus of including two extra tracks and artwork from an installation piece by Amon Tobin himself and artist Tessa Farmer.Â In addition, there is a 50-minute commentary on the album, which Tobin calls a “sound sculpture,” available on Soundcloud.