Islet – Clwb Ifor Bach 07.03.20
(Review by Rob Richards)
That we were in for something magical was apparent even before Islet even entered the stage, as the three band members moved through the audience anointing them and the space with rhythmic patterns on tuned bells followed by a song (Be More Mared) dedicated to the artist Swci Delic.
The rest of the set consisted of eight of the eleven tracks on their new album “Eyelet”, released just the day before (6 March 2020). That album is deservedly attracting rave reviews. All the elements are there that we loved in their earlier releases – gorgeous bass lines, intelligent allusive lyrics, clever experimentation and a readiness to plunder musical styles (and, in fact, the whole world of sounds) for whatever they need at a particular moment. But there is also something new – a greater sense of unity. Previously, Islet have given us enticing glimpses, sometimes disparate, into their musical world. It may be that the band themselves now have a clearer perception of that world or perhaps they are just giving us a fuller picture.
All this was present in their live show but with a sizeable injection of energy and power. Mark’s snaky synth bass was overlaid by Alex’s more percussive bass guitar and drumbeats, often understated on the record, were hammered out by Emma at a stand-up kit. The biggest revelation was Emma’s vocals – dreamlike and atmospheric on record – were delivered with a commanding stage presence and an awesome power on the occasions when she really let rip.
There were technical issues, including 3 complete power-outs on Mark’s rig, a couple at crucial points when he was just about to drop the beat. Maybe the anointing at the start helped because the audience seemed content to wait patiently during these hiatuses, confident that power, electrical and metaphorical, would soon be restored. As indeed it was.
Overall, an outstanding performance, with moments when they touched the truly sublime. If islet are this good when things go wrong, what heights are they capable of reaching?
Also on the bill were Melin Melyn, a relatively new Welsh band who deliver well-crafted catchy songs with a clarity of sound that has a strong whiff of California circa 1967. And Despicable Zee from Oxford, a one-woman band who creates strange and lovely soundscpaes with just drums, a few samples and her own almost-spoken voice.