Islet- The Lexington, 16/11/11

IsletVibrant electro-experimentalist quartet Islet delivered an accomplished performance at Islington’s Lexington venue on Wednesday night, which marked the penultimate night of their brief seven date autumnal tour of England.

The band’s entrance is conducted with a meandering wander through the crowd, playing a softly belled lullaby together which immediately drops an air of silence over the audience. If they came here not knowing what to expect, this introduction wouldn’t have made them any less clue-less.

Though in truth, it speaks a lot about the kind of manner with which Islet go about their work. Yes, there is a glimmer of humour to it, but the entrances and onstage personas of all the members, whilst mid-song at least, never drops from a composed stage-face, and this gripping, and at times a little distressing, ambience contributes a lot to how well they achieve their thoughtfully engaging artistic purposes. Their performance is, in every way, a wholly absorbing spectacle, and if Antonin Artaud had ever defied the generally perceived principles of human biology and made it through to today to immerse himself in the wildly diverse and cultivated music landscape that today’s young generation is blessed with, he would, with almost certainty, be a mad Islet fan.

The rhythmic yelps and contorted screams combine with almost convulsively rigid and rhythmic body motions that accompany the, in itself, quite alienating music, to bring back the dystopian theatrical principles that the psychologically unstable Frenchman outlined in his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ almost a century ago. This is the very idea of purposefully disturbing the audience, by pushing the boundaries of emotive expression to breaking point. Islet’s exploitation of this is of course broken up by casual ‘in-between song’ chats about Frozen Planet, Virgin Media and that weird way Americans write the date wrong, as well as graciously thanking the audience for their turn out.

The performance of the music itself is, as always, of an exceptional pedigree and, gifted with a full headline set, they are able to demonstrate a greater scope of eclecticism and versatility that helps with the digestion of music like this, that can at times just seem to wash over you with an obscure taste of unease.

The stark and mundane utterances of the lead vocals consistently portray a banal malaise quite at odds with the frenzied, energetic rhythms and piercing guitar tones that lay beneath it, conveying a sort of implicit and un-emotive existential despair. At times, the backing yelps of various different members come together to release refined touches of emotion and stress the tight rhythmic backing that each song is, without fail, based on.

Though regularly switching instruments, the band all take turns to drum, and often dedicate at least two percussionists per song. This helps emphasise the tight rhythmic focus that each tune is clearly defined with, and gives them a piercing edge that pushes their music right into the face of their audience. It doesn’t always feel enjoyable, or easy to listen to, but it constantly grabs you, and at the end of it all, leaves you feeling rather mesmerised. More than with any other band you could have chosen to spend a cold November Wednesday night in London with, they make you know that you have definitely just seen something.

The band will be playing at ‘Crossing Borders’ Festival in Belgium and the Netherlands this weekend, as well as returning for a home-coming show in Cardiff next Wednesday, and have dates as far afield as Japan in their diaries for the new year.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.