Manchester’s (now) foursome after five years and several reasonably promising EP’s have finally released their debut album – the question is, is it any good?
As a live act they have been slowly growing an audience and reaching new followers further and further away from their Mancunian roots. As an extremely regular gig goer chatting with other giggers the name Ist Ist was getting mentioned to me more and more and, to be honest upon first listen to what was out there I couldn’t get what people were talking about, I actually referred to them as a Poundland Joy Division, they just seemed to lack a certain something.
My first actual gig seeing them live was also similarly disappointing, I went along to the Hebden Bridge Trades Club to see them mainly because the wonderful Pins were on support. The sound was just plain off, they sounded flat, the keys were turned so far down the mix you could barely hear them and I could feel my frustrations coming through for something missing in there that was desperately needed to come through.
With the addition of a fourth member I wondered what was the point of him being on stage, turns out I was at one of his 1st live gigs and things were just gelling, however as the previous year went on they certainly seemed to boost their live performances onto another level, things were falling into place and venues suddenly began to start selling out. Big things were expected to be delivered for the growing crowd of followers with this release,
Opener Wolves as a stand-alone early release was a bit of a curveball put out there and somewhat bewildering to new fans and old followers alike, however as an opener for what’s about to follow it is a perfect beginning. The Joy Division referencing which the band fight so hard to try and distance themselves from is still clearly evident in the stark darkness of the opener and I don’t think the comparison will start to fade anytime soon, it’s far less Poundland now though and much more like a rebirth. 2nd track You’re Mine (‘s) upbeat rapid drumming kicks in and the journey into the album begins in earnest, guitars to the fore, powerful vocals, it’s an assault on the senses but somehow feels to end as quickly as it begins.
Third track Black brings things back to the ground but with a powerful chorus and again Joel’s on point drumming and Andy’s bass notes are pushing through and demanding your attention, live this has already proven itself in the last couple of gigs as it was allowed to be heard before the lockdown, this is all starting to feel pretty good now.
Fourth track Discipline is the new boy, keyboardist (and 2nd guitar) Mat’s time to shine – think classic Depeche Mode 80’s coming through and you won’t be far off the vibe, this is what I was desperate to hear just over some 12 months earlier, a better, fuller dimension to the sound.
Onto the fifth track and we’re into arguably the strongest album track. A New Love Song really brings the old and new Ist Ist together, back to a stripped away, monotone and deeply dark sound to begin with, a truly wonderful build happens that reminds me somewhat of building of a banger during the euphoric trance scene in it’s heyday. Silence the sixth track is another instantly audible assault, another live anthem in the making, guitars and drums to the forefront with Adam’s vocals smashing into you like a sledgehammer.
Seventh track Drowning In the Shallows dials things right back down once again, this is becoming something of a theme here, quick quick slow, once again slow paced compared to what preceded with more building electronica back to the fore. Following Night’s Arm builds things up again, Andy’s bass hitting you front and centre before Mat and Adam kick in together with guitars to Joel’s incessant beats, stark and yet involving with a classic Kraftwerk type vibe about it.
Under Your Skin takes you back down yet again, again Mat’s keyboard skills call to lift you and Adam’s vocals drop you back down, it’s an absolute rollercoaster of a tune. Slowly We Escape is the final track on this audio journey and boy is it a belter. The first part could have been released at any point in the last 40 years and like many tracks of it’s kind is instantly timeless and then the guitars kick in lifting you one final time, carrying you upon a euphoric high once again until it all too quickly fades out.
In summary and I know this begins to read like a fan boy’s account and certainly as a band over the past 18 months they have won me over on the stage but there really isn’t much to pick fault at. If you like pop music or rap etc then there’s absolutely nothing in here for you but you probably wouldn’t be reading this, to begin with, you could say it feels a little on the short side but if the Mancunian sound is in your blood then you will feel as at home in this as you ever could. Just as their Lantern Independent Venue Week gig over the Pennines in Halifax made the sold-out crowd pay total attention, this album feels like a giant has begun to roll.
Guest Writer Ric Brook
Join us on the RGM Facebook page Saturday16th May for a live Q+A and album play through👇