Reviewing is at it’s hardest when music is at it’s newest and most experimental. What the scores of articles about Islet would’ve talked about if the band had gotten themselves a MySpace is anybody’s guess, but the most likely outcome would’ve been a vast cut in word counts. Put simply, the band are without peer in what they do – Celebrate This Place is their first real release following a free EP given away through Turnstile’s Bento series, and it’s just as much of an enigma as you’d expect.
Most obviously, there’s something deeply tribal about what the band do, which explains the cult following that they’ve received through their live performances. In their darkest moments, the foursome must’ve worried that the intensity and ferocity that they’ve become synonymous with might’ve been lost when committed to record, which almost proves to be the case. Whilst there may not quite replicate the in your face energy of their live performances, there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. The closest contemporaries are probably Mi Ami, who share the band’s love of the weird and experimental, the layered rhythms and non-standard instrumentation. Even that, though, feels like an awkward comparison, as even they seem to have some relation to the music norm. There are no concessions made for the listener and very little effort made to accommodate anything approaching conventionality, with sparse percussion, noise guitar and yelps being key parts of their sound.
Amazingly, it all works brilliantly. Okay, so this isn’t ever going to entice the mainstream, and it’d take a huge change in output or society as a whole for the band to become a crossover hit. There’s only one track – closer, ‘Rowan’, that even approaches an obvious single, but a five minute long slow burner isn’t ever going to dominate commercial radio. For the slithers of society, those who are more au fait with the unconventional, this half an hour of crashes, of feedback and chanting, is a miniature masterpiece. The first listen is something that should be written off almost completely – this is a record that reveals itself to you over time, each repeat playing being more rewarding than the last as the uncomfortable rhythms become lodged in your psyche. The best tactic to take is one of gentle submission, allowing the noise to wash over you in waves, a passive participant in this wonderful experiment.
ISLET – JASMINE [download from tlobf]