“Each song sounds like a deep fear of drowning …and Every now and then, and just for a second, some sugar-dirt glimmer of sound slices through but we’re swimming in loneliness still.”
Slabs, high waves, bass cladded walls of slugged atmospherics pinned to pristine and silver tipped drums. Power shifts back and forth from bass runs to synths that permeate the room with icy clear textures and mud coloured syrupy static. Their bio shouts post punk and Bunnymen, but The Cure at their bleakest and Interpol at their thickest and least optimistic might both be better places to start.
Isi Ist are a tense, terse, taut stack of stuttered obsessions; a theatre of crumbling soundscapes in a desolate alternate now. Too tired to scream, too pent up to weep, isolation weaves like a theme that develops and wraps itself up ’til it’s tied in unpickable knots.
Repetition and build-ups are key, ‘Right Before Your Eyes’ is relentless. It’s a grim world outside and there’s just enough light to remember the days of full colour. But not this song, not in these four minutes – this song is a warning of worse things to come. Every beat is pressed into existence and squeezed into place under pressure.
‘Emily’ plays like a photograph; in the clatter and off-polished grind, a guitar line shines through and shimmers. Light in the dark like a memory still clung to, held on to despite best intentions.
Each song sounds like a deep fear of drowning; sharpened high hat 16ths and clean cymbal splashes are the feet kicking hard underneath. And every now and then, and just for a second, some sugar-dirt glimmer of sounds slices through but we’re swimming in loneliness still, past angers to keep us afloat. ‘Jennifer’s Lips’ proves the point, old pains contort into spite. The lines “Jennifer’s lips are full of sin / Jennifer’s lips are full of sinew” and “full of venom/better tell ’em” turns that spite into fuel that propels the most ready for radio track here. It’s not quite as murky, a little breathing room opens, the by now familiar rises and falls are perfectly spaced out for quick grab attentions.
It’s a kick to be trapped in this world that’s curated, created, unfolding. The balance of press and release that leans mainly one way is more of a statement than set. Releases are rare but come welcomed, ‘I Want To Disappear’ is the first major let go of grip… I might have wanted this just a bit sooner, but it’s easy almost house-piano loops glide and give space to let dust and hate settle.
We end on ‘Diversion’, all warnings of worse have borne fruit. It stings like a cave in; an at-last letting go. After maintaining a semi-calmed anger we finally hear what it’s like to shout out, to wail and let rip and let loose. Unnerving and wanted and out of the blue, it’s a much needed snapping of tension.
It’s a kick to be trapped in their world, now let’s see how much that world widens.
Ist Ist played Rough Trade, Nottingham March 15th, 2019
With support from Lois and Kid Amber
P.S. Fountain pens come in handy when you don’t have a camera…
Honorable mentions to…
With a tightly wrapped twist in a slick mid-set run of hazy sunshine 60s garage. The cleaner the songs, the more sharp their focus, the more Standells and Box Tops and Shondells shine through. No rip-offs just love and a keen eyed attention to lysergic bubblegum cool off-clean pop.
Their first gig all flailing hair and thin limbs with bare bones of early 90s grunge. Half-hooks, lazy anger, grizzled shoegaze swells from low slung guitars; bones to get fleshed out from this first show onward.
With thanks to Nottingham Live.