Like reading Stephen King and masturbating eight times a day, it’s probably best to get some things out of your system early. For all that Islet have been (deservedly) lighting those newhotblogbuzzband bulbs recently, into the national press and beyond, it’s the Cardiff band’s past lives in uberindie bashers such as Attack + Defend and Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club that gives things a sobering counterpoint. So much of Islet feels like an attempt to move beyond indie, of ideas splashed up the walls as quickly as they bubble up. If you can make a noise you can make a song, so why not cram it with cranky organ, whoops and shouts and every member smashing cymbals? Two previous mini-albums have shown no urgent attempt to replicate the kinetic nature of their live shows – imagine an exorcism of mad-eyed charmed snakes – which is fairly sensible: by stretching out and stitching together a hundred rehearsal room experiments and jam session fragments they’ve not necessarily reinvented the wheel for this debut album, but have made it pretty fun to take a ride on.
Previous single ‘This Fortune’ is a pretty good bridge between old releases and now: its dreamy organ beatdown melds the crackle of ‘Celebrate This Place’ to the haziness of ‘Wimmy’, and it kicks like a kung fu mule. It’s the high watermark two in ‘Illuminated People’s killer opening one-two: ‘Libra Man’ arrives on mechanized crunches and serpentine wisps of backing vocals before splurging on swollen layers of desert prog organ. You might see its nine minute length as some sort of statement; more likely that’s just the way it tumbled out.
Unforced personality is the dominant theme here. The three main vocalists make noises worthy of their own action figures: from choirboy weirdo (JT) to agitated meths tramp (Mark) to cooing banshee (Emma, slightly overused if we’re being scrupulously honest), they spar against the musical clamour with equal weight. On ‘Entwined Pines’ they take turns, blend together and jump in front of each other in equal measure. On ‘A Warrior Who Longs To Grow Herbs’, it’s Emma’s gig, as slow, rumbling bass makes lushly cinematic waves, pierced by a plaintive “please… come… home” refrain. For a fair whack of the album, downed tempos underpin songs that nail moods rather than circular structures: see the stop/start twinkling videogame rush of ‘Shores’, or the capsized, quiet guitar blues of ‘We Bow’. Easing off the intensity is alright when your sonic palette is thriving underneath.
It’s not perfect – ‘Filia’ is pretty formless and meandering, ‘What We Done Wrong’ lapses into alt rock guitar and weird baggy drum patterns – but ‘Illuminated People’s ideas gush is confidently bloodyminded, helpfully finding gold while following its own path. As ‘A Bear On His Own’ closes things, veering from lolloping fairground bounce to chanting and rising anxiety chords, before popping like a bath bubble, the freewheeling impression left is the fun you can have, just because you can.