50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

Amon Tobin: ISAMAmon TobinISAM (Ninja Tune, 5/24/11)

Amon Tobin: “Lost and Found”

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During his 15-year career, DJ and electronic artist Amon Tobin has transitioned from expert sampler and breakbeat artist to field-recording guru and sound designer. ISAM completes this move to synthesized and manipulated original samples, turning otherwise atonal sounds into instruments.

Tobin’s last few albums have been as heavy on ambience and abstraction as on piecemeal beats, and ISAM is no different. Melodies are interwoven into unsettling mixtures of timbre. There are cuts of recognizable instruments, such as guitar or bells, but they’re often just a layer in a greater sea of sound.

Interestingly, ISAM marks the first time that Tobin has recorded his own vocals for an album, and at times they’re manipulated to sound like a woman or a young boy. As one might imagine, they’re rarely used in a traditional manner — except for the weird falsetto harmonies of “Kitty Cat,” which might just foreshadow an Amon Tobin “pop” album.

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