Islet – Illuminated People (Turnstile)
January 8, 2012 by Toby McCarron
Those familiar with Welsh experimental pop quartet Islet, will know by now that they are no normal band. Their output so far, two mini albums Celebrate This Place and Wimmy, are not only abnormal but extremely worthy. Celebrate This Place was a more percussive noisy lo-fi affair based around complex rhythmic structures and psychedelic notions of “Holly in your mind” not to mention the bizarre animal noises showcased on ‘We Shall Visit’. While Wimmy was equally askew and experimental with its clanking drums, repetitious choruses and the band’s almighty impassioned manifestations of the songs at their live shows, which had many a punter either enraptured or simply taken aback by the bands dynamism.
It may be of disappointment to some then, that Islet’s first full length ‘Illuminated People’ is for the large part more restrained on the energy front. Instead however, Islet’s profound love of experimentation isn’t simply jammed out continuously in noisy blasts, but is more honed and concentrated into soundscapes and concepts, yet thankfully is made no less engaging. Opener ‘Libra Man’ is as good an introduction to Islet as you’ll need, the 9 minute long epic is placed first on the track listing which in itself shows how much Islet can crowbar into one long song and still keep it attention-grabbing. The track itself revolves around the trademark loud drum thumps and mechanised sounding guitar judders, while playful if slightly confusing lyrical putdowns are thrown down over the top “And when I see you run, I think of chainmail”, “What is your greatest fear? Ours is the sight of you”. The best thing about the track is the journey Islet takes the listener on, as soon as you get uninterested with one part of the song another great section starts up (notably the superb psychedelic culmination).
Elsewhere, ‘Entwined Pines’ is the closest the album gets to a pop song with cooing, more accessible vocals as opposed to the synchronised yelps that asserted themselves principally on Wimmy. Hell, it even has a chorus that’s hard not to sing along to, if any song on this album will win Islet some more fans it’ll probably be this one. ‘Funicular’ too is similar which starts off sounding like warped lounge music before a druggy swirled chorus interjects every now and again.
There’s also a take on the sea shanty (‘Shores’) elements of post-punk (‘Filia’) and as close as Islet will get to rave on the mutating beast of a song that is ‘This Fortune’. Perhaps most surprising of all on Illuminated People however isn’t the plethora of bonkers ideas but the moments Islet actually take a moment to strip back and slow down on tracks like ‘We Bow’. It’s in stark contrast to the other tracks with pained vocals and gentle guitar plucks, but oddly enough is one of the albums standouts and proof if any that Islet can turn their hand to pretty much anything and manage to keep it fresh and distinctively by Islet.
All in all ‘Illuminated People’ serves like a manual on how to make great experimental music delivered by the new masters of the craft, Islet. It’s an absolute joy to listen to and is a must-have for fans of variety in their music.