The Sonic Characteristics of Hi-Fi Systems in Hotel Rooms

Confession: I judge albums by their covers. I do it all the time. And when I saw the cover for Amon Tobin’s ISAM, I decided it would be beautiful, I decided it would be mine.

Because it’s been haunting me lately, satisfying me lately, because it’s found its way into my column and into my mind, because it’s beautiful, because it’s strange, and even at the risk of it becoming inextricably tied to thoughts of uncomfortable seats and smelly hotel rooms, I’ll be using Amon Tobin’s ISAM as a “reference disc” during the 2011 California Audio Show.

Purists (some of my closest colleagues and friends come to mind) will cry foul, will find this record to be overly processed, unlistenable, utterly offensive. But I’ve never been a purist—at least not where music is concerned. The idea of “purity” in music offends me.

So I will listen to ISAM, use it to judge (more likely appreciate) the sonic characteristics of hi-fi systems in hotel rooms.

I’m sure this music will intrigue some, fascinate others, send a few flying from exhibit rooms. All of which is completely fine with me. I’m looking forward to it.

If you’re interested, you can stream ISAM right here. Listen along as I go from room to room.

Phelonius's picture

Looks like a rip off of a Barclay James Harvest cover to me. Stephen you need to listen to BJH, this is serendipity in extremas (BJH is best appreciated when Shindo Amps are employed! Try early moring Onwards or perhaps Xii which was actually recorded on this exact day on 1978)

Stephen Mejias's picture

Phelonius (awesome name!): The art is by Tessa Farmer.  These are tiny installations/sculptures, often measuring just a centimeter or so.  I believe she did one piece for each song on the album.

I will check out Barclay James Harvest.  Thanks!

Erick Lichte's picture

Used to listen to Amon Tobin all the time.  I will be listening to him more in my future.  Thanks Stephen.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I thought you would like it, Erick.

John Atkinson's picture

Stephen gave me a copy of this album on CD on Thursday before he left for San Francisco. I must admit that I am having a harder time getting into it than with Stephen 's other recommendations, Fourtet and Colin Stetson, for example.


John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Stephen Mejias's picture

It's almost beer o'clock in NYC, isn't it? Have a beer, close your eyes, and listen from the beginning to the end, JA. 

: )

People here at the show are enjoying the Amon Tobin album more than I expected.