Islet - Illuminated People

by Steve Rhodes Rating:8 Release Date:2012-01-23

Wales has been a great stomping ground for all things left-field and psychedelic, with Man, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals and Ankst Records leading the way, and Cardiff based four-piece Islet continue this long tradition with their debut Illuminated People.

'Libra Man' sets its stall with treated guitar shreds and organ, tinny drums and a la-la vocal floating between the speakers, very much in the early-Seefeel mode, leading into heavier percussion and a flat, atonal, almost-sneering male vocal. It's decent opening, sparse in places, with a touch of the earlier dreamy vocal in the background, but really kicks into gear when the organ is up front, sounding Germanic with hints of 70s prog. A bucket load of sounds and styles are crammed into its nine minutes, a good representation of the band, which though a bit overwrought, points in a positive direction.

The prog path is maintained for the more immediate 'This Fortune', where shredded guitars and organ are again to the fore and Amon Duul or Gong sit as a clear influence. However, the Ofra Haza or Miranda Sex Garden vocal and contemporary dynamics veers the song in a medieval, goth direction. Like Sisters of Mercy's 'Temple of Love' meets Apollo 440, it is a decent contrast. The Ofra Haza-type vocal continues onto the intro of the excellent 'What We Done Wrong', accompanied by a delicate guitar in the Piano Magic mould, before the volume is cranked up. A more structured song with dual vocal which, along with the more shoutier, but still melodic 'Filia', at times resembles the brilliant long lost early 90s London band Rosa Mota.

The album leaps back and forward between styles and sounds, from the Vashti Bunyan meets Swervedriver of the daftly titled 'A Warrior Who Longs to Grow Herbs', via the lounging and dreamier 'Entwined People' to the Wild Beasts falsetto vocal and Earl Brutus styling of 'Funicular', without really maintaining an identity of its own. Despite this, the songs still fit fairly well together and the closing two tracks seem to give the band a much needed sense of humour. From the Misty's Big Adventure-aping 'Shores' to the Blue Peter hi-jacked by a Yeasayer cult of 'A Bear on His Own'. The latter is an excellent building number which blends the innovation of Disco Inferno with touches of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci mania, ending with organ and vocal screeches. A great closing number, undoubtedly the highlight of the album.

Perhaps using Animal Collective's songbook, Illuminated People is a wayward, sometimes unfocussed album which at times feels a little forced. However, it crams far more into its 50 minutes than most artists can put into an entire career, with songs that somehow gel together and cry out for repeated listens. A superb muddle of an album.

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