Amon Tobin, Hammersmith Apollo, London

 

Bad news: Amon Tobin's one-off set at Hammersmith Apollo was the last ever British outing for his ISAM project. This was version 2.0 of the live show, with music largely drawn from his 2011 album of the same name, and with truly ground-breaking visuals.

Last summer, I caught the tail-end of Tobin's set at the ill-fated Bloc festival, but a few tracks were enough to convince that this was something special. For tonight's ISAM Live 2.0, a space-suit wearing Tobin and his equipment are inside a box at the centre of the stage; surrounding him is a 25-foot Tetris-esque sculpture of different sized cubes (that's twice the size of the structure on its first tour). On to these are projected specially tailored images; it's like 3D cinema where it's the screen that has the third dimension, and it's frequently fiendishly clever. 

Tobin, who hails from Brazil, made his name with sample-heavy electronica that was as rich with funky jazz breakbeat as it was with knob-twiddling; ISAM, however, was in a rather less good-time, more carefully constructed vein. Alone, a couple of hours of this music – which shifts between brain-juddering, bass-heavy, body-nodding beats and crisper, twitchier, glitchier fare – might wear you down.

There are points when it sounds like a can of Red Bull has been spilt on a laptop, all hyper-active bleeps and ticks and whizzes. But when you add the visuals to the mix, it's practically sensory overload.

One minute the boxes look like flickering electrical circuits, the next they've become billowing clouds of smoke; you're looking at the inside of a spaceship, or hurtling down a corridor. Often it's the simplest light tricks that melt your mind the most, as the cubes seem to divide and multiply, twist and re-arrange themselves. It's easy to lose track of what is solid, and what is light-show; it's like getting stoned inside an Escher etching.

This possibly places the music secondary to the imagery. But then, each rely on the presence of the other, and the mapped projections are perfectly in sync with the sound, elevating both. Visual tropes complement the aural: industrial cogs for grinding sub-bass or rippling silk for shimmering washes.

The good news is that even if you missed ISAM Live, Tobin has pushed forward what you can expect of an audio-visual gig experience. As he packs up the boxes, lets just hope the next big idea is about to be unwrapped.  

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