The concensus on Amon Tobin's show at MUTEK last night was that it exceeded expectations which were very, very high and it's easy to see how. Our friends at V Squared Labs responsible for the visuals: "killed it" - that's the word today!
Watching the extended trailer released by the artist a few days ago gives some idea of scale and complexity of this production and what and who it took to pull it off.
The VSquared team built a custom TouchDesigner application that runs the visuals of the entire Amon Tobin show. The application, made in TouchDesigner’s visual programming environment, does the projection mapping, video playback, Kinect response, realtime effects and more.
We'll have an interview with V Squared director Vello Virkhaus, designer and chief programmer Peter Sistrom and Leviathan chief scientist Matt Daly to expand on the making of when the dust settles but in the interim here is some media coverage of the event.
"Groundbreaking modelling and mapping techniques were used to take the audience at the Metropolis on a trip to dozens of worlds. Throughout the evening, it felt like one was transported into deep space or, alternately, inside the Tron grid, a game of Tetris, an M.C. Escher painting, the fiery pits of Mordor, an acid-coloured kaleidoscope, a Splinter Cell video game, or perhaps simply some really wicked cubes. Inside the centre of the structure in his own Borg-like square compartment was Tobin, mastering the live musical performance in perfect synch.
It was a live show one might have said could only be created and performed by cybernetic organism. And in the midst of the experience, it was temping to declare, "Move over Daft Punk!" but Tobin's music is a different beast than the Parisian duo's. ISAM does not tap into the human desire to turn into dancing robots (What? Not everybody wants that?), but rather to bring technology closer to the organic.
Photo: Cindy Lopez
On ISAM, much like 2007's Foley Room, Tobin once again transforms field recordings into complex rhythmic structures that might be best described as orchestrating the environment, a electronic/natural synergy with bonus vocal manipulations to give it that human heart. It's not really dance party stuff, but after performing the ISAM album, Tobin treated everyone with a mix of past hits, and just when you thought nothing more could possibly be done with a massive bunch of cubes and a high powered projector, a whole new animation would unveil."
A May 24th article in Fast Company titled The Dr. Moreau of Music which is really worth reading in its entirety had this to say about the show production:
"This summer, Tobin will also introduce something spectacular into ISAM: actual spectacle, in the form of an eye-popping interpretation of his work. "I didn't want to be the guy onstage hunched over my laptop," Tobin says. Enter director Vello Virkhaus, cofounder of the Los Angeles-based V Squared Labs, the high-tech visual arts and F/X company behind the lavish stage designs for 50 Cent, the Police, and Coldplay. For ISAM, "Amon had this idea of making it a space journey," Virkhaus says. "So we decided to build him this structure, where he would pilot it like a space craft, and project images onto the structure to create this illusion of take off, then explore a dynamic universe."
To do this, Virkhaus and his team, along with large-scale visual design company Leviathan in Chicago and SF-based fine art-techies Blasthaus, built a massive, 2.5-ton structure composed of dozens of white cubes and rectangles made of wood and steel. Two sides of each box face the audiences at 45 degrees so the images hit both sides for a richer 3-D effect.
Photo: Cindy Lopez
In the center of the structure is Tobin's cockpit--a semi-transparent control room where he plays his laptop and tweaks a few visual components to lend a sense of spontaneity.
The structure, at first glance, looks like a giant game of Tetris. But with the images, which were rendered, mapped, and calibrated by Virhaus and his team using custom-built 3-D modeling software, LED mapping programs and videogame animation techniques, the piece transforms into a shape-shifting, all-enveloping experience with glowing stars, orange volcanos, and a blasting rocket ship. The final result is like an exhibit you'd expect to find in the netherworld between MOMA and ILM. And, according to Ninja Tune's Jeff Waye, the whole set is so original, it may not get a repeat performance after it's run, which begins June 1 at Montreal's MUTEK festival before heading to Europe for a string of dates. (A U.S. tour is expected early fall.) "We're thinking of burning the whole thing down when the tour ends--including Tobin," he says. "He can't possibly top this one.""
We are all very, very impressed with and super proud of V Squared's work with ISAM and wish them well on the upcoming back-to-back shows in Europe next week. More soon!
1st June - MUTEK, Montreal
9th June - Astra, Berlin
10th June - AB, Brussels
15th June - Melkweg, Amsterdam
17th June - Roundhouse, London