Something as bizarrely brilliant as this debut needs to be savoured.
Ben Hewitt 2012-01-20
As the latest quest to save guitar music trundles along – with pundits lighting the distress beacons and hunting in all manner of nooks and crannies for the next riff-chugging bunch to anoint as saviours – it’s worth positing whether we really need another Learn Three Chords, Start A Band type to rush to the rescue. Cardiff’s Islet, you imagine, would certainly argue that inspiration and innovation can come from far more varied sources than dusty old amps and second-hand Ramones CDs. Last year’s Celebrate This Place and Wimmy EPs showcased how raucously bonkers their wares could be, touching upon influences ranging from Pavement to Gang Gang Dance; now, they’ve rolled up all their eclectic weirdness into one ball for debut full-length Illuminated People, which is brimming with a knack for oddball soundscapes akin to a hybrid of Can and These New Puritans.
Opener Libra Man, for example, is the boldest of opening gambits, kicking off with a jerky, serrated electronic riff that’s bolstered by tribal drums, before blossoming into staccato hiccoughs of freaky noises which unfold over nine minutes. Yet things take an immediate volte-face for This Fortune, a brutal slow-burner that’s built upon dank, growling guitars and Emma Daman’s voice, which switches between disconcerting cooing and frenzied yelping.
In less-skilled hands, such a mad professor approach to experimenting could risk being alienating, but Illuminated People is never indecipherable; indeed, We Bow is a disarmingly sweet and simple ditty that’s furnished by the heartfelt desire to "dive into your world with you". And for all the strangeness of Entwined Pines, it’s still a pop song – one with an eerie, chiming melody seemingly pilfered from David Lynch’s ice cream van, perhaps, but a pop song nonetheless, with a swooping melody and sing-along chorus.
Other highlights include the shimmering pitter-patter of A Warrior Who Longs to Grow Herbs and the psychedelic, off-kilter rhythms of Funicular, but it’s closing track A Bear On His Own that neatly encapsulates what makes Islet so vital. Boasting an electro riff reminiscent of a demented fairground attraction, it eventually erupts into a discordant mixture of bizarre choral chanting and splinters of tumbling scree that are equal-parts decadent and delightful. Forget power-chords and delving into guitar music’s annals; something as thoroughly modern, and bizarrely brilliant, as Illuminated People needs to be savoured as much as possible.