I feel like now, more than at any point in the last decade, there’s an urge for new artists to have a quirky, interesting self-image before they can get anywhere, and it’s not difficult to see why. Imagine you’re in a new band. You’ve just recorded half a dozen live takes of tracks you wrote in a few hours one weekend so you can stick the EP on Soundcloud, only for a few dozen of your friends to have a quick listen. But you have a bright idea: you’ll tweet cryptic passages from old Krautrock tracks, and wear hand-bleached shirts on stage, and when you perform, you’ll go bat-shit crazy – amps will be kicked, keyboards will be beaten to within inches of their lives; suddenly you feel as though you have to be music’s Marina Abramovic. Suddenly, you think an unsurprised fan is an uninterested one.
Oh, and if you get a chance, you might write a new song or two. You know, if there’s time.
This is exactly what Islet are not. Sure, the Welsh band shows all the telltale signs; they publish a regular zine, they release trippy-as-hell artwork, and most importantly, their gigs are really quite insane. The difference is this: all of this is not done to complement their music, nor is it meant to cultivate some kind of cult following. It’s purely a result of their music. Simple cause and effect.
Of all the things you could say about Islet’s percussive freak-outs, cascading guitar loops and piercing vocal and electronic FX, one thing is certain: it’s intense. Their 2012 debut record, Illuminated People, is definitive proof of this. Entwined within the gothically reverbed vocal pleas of ‘A Warrior Who Longs To Grow Herbs’ and the sharp synth tones of ‘Shores’, we find a very welcome sense of warmth and character in both the lyrics and music. Standout tracks to play when you’ve got friends round are catchy guitar tracks ‘What We Done Wrong’ and ‘A Bear On His Own’, while tracks like ‘We Bow’ and ‘Libra Man’ warrant, I think, a closer listen. Similarities to Zun Zun Egui’s guitars and Gang Gang Dance’s vocal and electronic style come to mind, although not enough to say Islet are really “like” either of these bands.
Frankly, and I really am being very frank here, it wouldn’t bother me a great deal if Islet had released a fraction of what they have. Both of their LPs as well as their two preceding EPs have impressed me, but Islet’s strength is surely their live performance. I can say with certainty that few bands are as into their own music as Islet are. They truly come on stage with only two things: their instruments, and their music. Everything else that happens, whether it be the bassist crawling through the crowd, or an expansive, sonically mind-bending wig-out, is born of the music alone. Islet’s music is certainly an acquired taste, but one thing’s for sure: no-one finds it sweeter than them. And so my advice: give them a listen, see what you think, and more importantly: see them.