Updated: Thursday, 9th July 2020 @ 8:21am

Review – Amon Tobin @ Future Everything festival

Review – Amon Tobin @ Future Everything festival

By Tom Midlane

It’s struck me for a while: most gigs are boring. You hand over your cash to watch endless support acts, with a half hour hiatus in between each one while they set up. It’s a medium in need of a shake-up.

Electronic artists performing live shows seem to have cottoned on to this fact: after all, no-one wants to stare at a producer behind a laptop, and the last couple of years have seen innovative audio-visual shows from the likes of DJ Shadow and Etienne de Crecy.

But if those two set the bar high, ISAM - the audio-visual show by Brazilian electronic producer Amon Tobin, this year's FutureEverything headliner - takes the bar, melts it down into its constituent parts and reconstructs it into a thrilling futuristic spectacle.

ISAM sees Tobin take up residency inside a large cube at the middle of a jaged cubist wall, which has ever-changing projections beamed on to it. But such a fact-of-fact description doesn't come close to doing justice to this show.The visuals wrap around the wall perfectly, turning it into an alien planet or, during Piece of Paper, a giant machine, with pistons pumping in time to the music.

And that's the most impressive about ISAM: how perfectly the light-show compliments the music. Tobin's ISAM album is a beautiful, free-flowing thing, but every song is massively enhanced by the flickering lights and perpetually-shifting backdrop. Smoke swishes across the wall, stars cascade from top to bottom. At other times it transforms into a Matrix-inspired grid of green light. It's a thing of beauty, and puts paid to the ill-considered notion that technology automatically equals cold and unemotional. 

The first time I saw the show, at London's Brixton Academy last week, it felt like an out-of-body experience. Again tonight several people mention having to check their breathing. In fact, it's so good that at times it feels like my mammalian brain can only just keep up - this is twenty-third century entertainment, and neural augmentation might be required to fully process it.

The Academy lacks the theatrical glamour of the all-seated Brixton gig, which gave a great view on the ISAM wall, but it's nice to be able to throw some shapes. As the ISAM set draws to a close, Tobin comes out from behind the wall to a rapturous reception, before giving us an encore of his harder, dancier early material. As soundwaves dance across the wall and the lights go out for a final time, all my ravaged brain can think is: this is what a gig should be.