Tuesday 29 May 2012, 09:51
It's too hot to breathe, let alone listen to molten, leftfield, musical aceness. Central Station has a tin roof and tonight all of the cats are inside being baked. As Mowbird plug their instruments in, I'm dreaming of being reincarnated as a salmon, leaping out of chill, frothy waters on my way to a spawning ground up near the Arctic Circle. Or an ice cream bath.
Mowbird are surf twang gone so wrong, it's right; Guided By Voices distracted by UFO tail lights; liberated garage punks grottying canvases in an art school studio.
They start off Shaky and finish Jerry Lee Lewis. They're The Castaways' Liar Liar in a Molotov Cocktail aimed at SyCo HQ. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
So, despite an apparent lack of familiarity with their own songs at the start of the set, they still have tunes to dye your hair for. Scratchy, fuzzy things that burst and pop with off kilter melodies half inched from the B movies of a parallel dimension. Or The Pixies' first two albums.
I really need to learn some contemporary reference points.
So much of the music I hear is overboiled tasteless by its own competence: bands who've sacrificed the fun out of it all before the Altar of Sheen. Even David Beckham - a man who looks like he could find his own visage in a coal forest on a cloudclad, midwinter night - would struggle to see his reflection in Mowbird.
They are great fun. Wrexham cocks up the B-52's, more-or-less magnificently.
Imagine if The Vaccines had a whiff of freshness about them, rather than the antiseptic odour of a Q journalist's impeccably right-on record collection of 'edgy' music. But Guided By Voices is my favourite comparison, of too many. Sorry.
Influential labels are sniffing around their impeccable crotches. They might want to give it a few days and a couple of showers after this sweatfest, though.
Trying to breathe at the merchandise stall - counting pound coins in my pocket to see if I have enough for a fresh t-shirt - I am suddenly surrounded by chimes. Mark Islet is behind me. Another Islet is sat at the table across the room. They've playing some weird bell-like things, like campanologists from Hamlyn. We all stop what we're doing (bar the breathing) and allow them to lead us to the stage.
If Islet were magicians they wouldn't make things disappear or appear - that'd be too obvious. They'd make things evolve in front of our eyes. Even an aged hack like me, steeped in decades of strange, communally-fashioned music mostly from Germany - can ear-smell the aural freshness here.
It's no wonder they eschew most of the tropes of modern band-dom. No Tweets, no Facebook, no obvious entry, or exit, points. 'Songs' so nebulous, yet all there, they'd have Thom Yorke locking himself in his yurt, crying luminous green tears. Because whilst Islet are, no doubt, conceptual, and pretentious, and art school, and dangerously close to being dressed in new togs that would fit Eeyore emperors, they're also - you know - really, really, REALLY good.
They may spend their entire set torching the rock 'n' roll rulebook, but that - no longer - comes across as their raison d'etre. Perhaps it never was, but it was the impression they gave off, in those early days of self-marooning themselves at the periphery of what we loosely call rock 'n' roll.
When an instrument gets swapped tonight, and a face changes place on the stage, it's in subservience to the music, not as an affectation to make the audience gape at the audacious unexpectedness of it all.
There is a great sense of infinite possibility about the band. The album tracks act only as templates for the actual performance. Some things stutter, as should be expected on the first night of any tour (Entwined Pines trips over its own aceness), other things take on a mystical life of their own, transforming Central Station's pragmatic, sulphuric innards into one of Live And Let Die's voodoo cermonies, but with more drums and distorted synth.
It's mostly about rhythm - and how primal and hypnotic rhythms can be intertwining within and without each other. This has far more in common with the less regimented, more experimental, edges of dance music than it does 'indie' music. Thank god for that. I'd hope that exposure to Islet would give a Pigeon Detective, or an Enemy, a non-fatal aneurysm that'd make it catatonically impossible for them to dull the world with their flavourless bum gruel any longer.
One completely transcendental moment that comes readily to mind, even today, five days and two hangovers after the event: Emma standing centre stage, singing down two different microphones: one lathered in a dubby delay, the other as clean as a new pair of white jeans. She switches between the two, on an ever undulating tapestry of noise, with a glorious smile on her face. It's as clear as the big, red, peeling nose on the end of my moonface, that the first people Islet want to amaze and confound is themselves. We're just fortunate to be invited along for the ride.
So, they're not so much leftfield, as in a skylift high above the field. subject to hitherto uncharted jetstreams of sound and rhythm. And great as the début album is on many occasions, this is soooooo much better. Live, they justify any extra vowels thrown in their direction, trust me.
A fresh breeze of possibility and excellence has blown through Central Station tonight.
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