Album Review: Islet – Illuminated People

By on Tuesday, 24th January 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Though they’ve released two EPs previously ‘Celebrate This Place’ and ‘Wimmy’, this week sees Cardiff band Islet (Emma Daman and brothers John and Mark Freeman) releasing their proper debut album. As should be expected, most of the tracks on ‘Illuminated People’ take full advantage of what has been considered Islet’s strength from the beginning: their ability to channel their talents into rhythmically eclectic tunes.

What I found completely unexpected was that despite their reputation as being known as a “rhythmic” band, they can sound, scarily, like a loud rock band brandishing their best two finger gestures, and they don’t make dance music, as I had incorrectly assumed. There’s also snatches of psych rock (‘A Bear on His Own’ – its equally psychedelic video is below) and folk (the Simon and Garfunkel-y ‘We Bow’).

‘Illuminated People’ begins with the lengthy ‘Libra Man’. Disappointingly, despite the astrologically minded title, the only mention of anything star related are the words in the chorus that go, “you’ve got the lion’s share” (comparison to Mr. Leo?) and you are given a further indication that the person being sung about is too cocksure. After an instrumental bridge, another verse comes round with “you’re a Rome-e-o / programmed for love”: maybe there is something astrological after all, just that whoever wrote this is not at all impressed by this bloke puffing out his chest. Maybe he’s getting the lion’s share…of women? Of conquests? At over 9 minutes, it does all start to feel a bit self-indulgent. Kind of like Cut Copy’s ‘Sun God’ closing out last year’s ‘Zonoscope’ album. Some people adore that track; personally, I feel like that’s the sort of thing a band should edit.

Beyond this first track, there are varied approaches with melody and vocals. Sometimes, the trio’s experiments go wrong. ‘This Fortune’ has effects laden, screechy, female, Yoko Ono-like vocals; ‘Funicular’ is great except for its schizophrenic Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde megaphone moments at one-third and two-thirds through the song. What is this? You experience similar situations with ‘Filia’ and ‘Shores’: it’s easier to give the band points on the obviously well thought out instrumentation than question their vocal choices. Anything too out there is not my bag, so listening to this album was like putting my brain into a blender.

On the more harmonious end of the vocal spectrum, ‘Entwined Pines’ has a sweet lead vocal and driving layered backing, and ‘What We Done Wrong’ is the anti-‘Giving Up on Love’ (Slow Club). These are the standouts on the album and probably have the best chance of doing well on radio and at this year’s festivals. But despite these two songs, I’m apt to file ‘Illuminated People’ under weird and maybe wonderful to a select, wigged out few.

6/10

‘Illuminated People’, the debut album from Islet, is out now on Shape Records. For a limited time, you can stream the album below.

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