Amon Tobin - How Do You Live

27 Jan 2022 - Skyler

Ambient, Experimental, Avantgarde | Nomark Records | Release date: 24 Sep 2021

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Amon Tobin is a long standing, experimental, and sonically complex composer who has completed 10 albums in 25 years. Beyond his work as Amon Tobin, he has also worked under the names: Cujo, Two Fingers, Only Child Tyran, Figueroa, and Stone Giants. The catalog of albums he’s built so far has established a strong and distinct sound, utilizing resampling and heavy amounts of synthesis played in on a Continuum. I recall a video in which he records tapping light bulbs together to make percussion sounds for a different album.

How Do You Live continues along a familiar line in the Electronic/Experimental world that you would expect from Amon, but it has more moments of ambient beauty than previous work. The album opens up to a thoroughly dissonant scape transforming itself into a comforting world of swirling and pulsing synths and voices before falling apart into dissonant voices, bass riffs and off kilter bells. This is a departure from what I’ve expected from Amon, his beat heavy, half time feel with looping and ever-shifting pockets of percussion. Thumps that sound like drums and kitchen cutlery tossed about engage me and provide a unique and well curated experience. I don’t recall hearing his voice in his earlier albums, but it’s a wonderful addition with a lightly processed layer of interest to the music, “ooh”-ing a haunting melody over the top of the onslaught of impressionistic objects.

I think of Amon as a sound designer first, you can feel the care he puts into recording, selecting, and processing sounds in every second of the music. Everything in this album feels like it comes from a different planet. Swirling wind, whipping about gears and whatever survived the downfall of a civilization on Alpha Centauri, repeated radio signals from a buried broadcast station, plasma leaking and searing the floor. The oscillation between extremely dissonant percussion that sounds as though it’s being played on an instrument you’ve never seen before and a wall of angelic voices made of glass is nothing less than fantastic.

This album is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Amon Tobin, it’s another notch in his belt with hopefully more to come. There’s something nostalgic about the way he makes his music, but ultimately unfamiliar, maybe thinking of a world that could be. It’s like a fever dream of the pleasant experiences you’ve had in the past. Reminding you, “There are good things, past, present, and future.” It feels hopeful, yet messy, with many detours that were unexpected but arriving at a destination I’m happy to be in. The album oozes a reflective mental state and shows growth in his music. I would highly recommend listening through How Do You Live, and if you enjoy it, check out more of his work.