Live Review

Islet, Café Oto, London

Cheerful hard rock, experimental synths and a lot of drumming.

Trying to describe Islet is one of the most difficult things one could venture to do. The four-piece from Cardiff seem to have taken it upon themselves to redefine music itself, resulting in a mix between cheerful hard rock, experimental synths and a lot of drumming (a description that doesn’t even come close to the real thing, so I press you to experience it for yourself). This year has seen some hard work on the road to indie stardom, seeing the release of two EPs, a UK tour supporting fellow Cardiffians Los Campesinos!, a headline tour and, if I may take the liberty to make some bold predictions, a place in some of the better end-of-the-year lists.

Islet caught my eye – and how could they not – earlier this year on their tour with LC! when they managed to impress more than the main act who, whatever you think about their music, are a pretty good live band themselves. Islet were all over the place, tambourines were flying through the air, every band member seemed to master every instrument present on the stage, which seemed to harbour far more than the four band members that make up Islet. Fast-forward half a year and they haven’t lost any of that energy or stage presence.

Support comes in the form of H.Hawkline, who also supports them on their last EP ‘Wimmy’ – but is sadly missed by yours truly (the word ‘Overground’ should offer enough of an explanation) - and Gyratory System, a three piece band making mainly instrumental music with saxophones, a trumpet, a bass and lots of samples. Not that you’d necessarily recognise these instruments if you’d put on one of their tracks: what Karin Dreijer Andersson does to her voice, Gyratory System do to their instruments, leading to the rather intriguing sight of a man playing the trumpet right before your very feet but the sound of a synth reaching your ears. It’s a mind fuck, but a very good one.

Islet themselves are off to a flying start with band members disappearing into the audience even during the first track. With their two drum sets they’ve got an amazingly tight rhythm section, complimented by guitars and synths, and anything else that they get their drum sticks on, such as the ceiling. Tracks as ‘Iris’ (about a girl and the flower), ‘Jasmine’ (about a girl and the flower) and ‘Holly’ (about a girl and the flower – I’m starting to see a pattern here) flourish in their energy and sudden tempo changes. Islet show some true craftsmanship, both in handling their instruments and in putting on a show without the whole thing feeling forged or scripted.

Mid-set the quartet builds in a moment of calm with tracks like ‘Horses and Dogs’, allowing for a breather after the initial jubilation over the first few tracks. The tracks on ‘Wimmy’ sometimes miss the energy of their first EP ‘Celebrate This Place’, but make up for this in depth and when performed live together they provide the perfect musical cocktail. Now we only have to wait for that album.

Tags: Islet, Features

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