Built on reputable foundations of 2017 shows at Gorilla, O2 Ritz, and Head For The Hills Festival, Ist Ist release their debut EP, Spinning Rooms, as their first recorded statement beyond the confinements of a single-play or stage.
In accordance with the aggressive directives and explosive expectations of their live reputation, Spinning Rooms has a perhaps underwhelming first listen, as Ist Ist consciously stray from the typical chorus hammer-breaks and higher tempo bursts embodied in earlier releases.
Yet in exposure of their creative maturity, the Manchester trio are evidently aware of what a fist-fight lacks in nuance, as they unravel Spinning Rooms like agèd papyrus into a cruel, but charactered, darkness to instil an artistic integrity and coherence into materials that we might not even deserve.
Not the thunderous foot-stepped entrance that hardcore-fans (of whom there are many) perhaps anticipated, ‘Preacher’s Warning’ is measured and calculated in its orchestration and delivery, instituting the chill of Spinning Rooms.
Andy Keating’s future-search bass craftings layer a contemporary atmosphere of mathematic musicality, enabling a sorry setting for the guitared paranoia present throughout the work, and in which whispers of “Google, Google,” hint deprecating drops at consumer life, all cast against the wired pendulum-swings of unfruited routine. Ist Ist construct a metaphor in the Spinning Rooms for the poisons of modernity.
‘I’m Not Here’ extends our confrontation with this idea, as Joel Kay’s drummed creative clamours spread percussive possibility to the walls, characterizing the industrial clang and clap of a machinist’s laboured nightmare. Three separately moving components, together they press at the red lines of ostinato-clad irritation, wall-pinning listeners with discomfort and itch before breaking through the bricks. Despair.
Initially perhaps the least obvious to love, ‘I’m Not Here’ is a throbbing wound, feasibly becoming the EP’s stand-out track.
Throughout the play, Adam Houghton’s vocals, acceptant and done, dialogue a decayed desperation to the affair. Houghton places himself, like listeners, entrapped in the Spinning Rooms’ cycle of soullessness, as heart and mind are lost in an image reminiscent of Gilman’s woman tearing to wallpaper. Ever lost yourself in loneliness?
Spinning along to lunar orbit, ‘An Interlude’ soundtracks a solar dream between lightless days, capturing mystery and the unknown, all the while separating the acts at the length of an arm and a night.
Awakening afresh, ‘Emily’ twinges with tension, net-caught restless and twitching. The track is gradually strained and tightened, before unbinding into snaring whip-cracks and bass-string-captured chaos. Here, Ist Ist again revisit a theme perhaps untypical of such shadowing music, as they jar romance in a voluptuous and rhythmic dark, trapping that black of Victorian Gothic love; bottled up and pure.
Lyrically, honesty and intimacy are hooked to the front of an instrumentation that is unified and singular. Enforced with bare pound, Ist Ist make a music of manoeuvring physicality.
Twisting through the Spinning Rooms one last time, ‘Diversion’ soundtracks listeners’ introduction to the enemy.
From the first united strike, there is a tribal call to cry. This song is anarchic and bent, staring at you with tilted neck before unleashing the dogs in a rounded revisit to the tangible dangers of previous singles, ‘Strangers’ and ‘Night’s Arm.’
In ‘Diversion,’ Ist Ist return more directly to the pathing themes of the wider EP, as they catch listeners in a crooked nihilism, and pseudo-Orwellian glare at the last threads of hope for avoiding the obstacles and traps of modern life’s terrible truths.
Spinning Rooms is a shape with more colours and sides than any fan would have realistically predicted. Removing from the bricked-built singles that got them to this point, Ist Ist glance at noire and grin at the abstract to create a work with message and nuance.
Not only do the Manchester three craft a shadowed sonic landscape with fear around each corner, but they convey it with an elegance and simplicity that dances with social commentary, visiting themes of solitude, romance, and psychosis.
The voices which source the Joy Division comparisons deserve a long, hard look. Ist Ist savage their own gap between all that punk and digitalism with a 21st century originality to burn.
The ‘Spinning Rooms’ EP is out now via Kind Violence Records – purchase various bundles and formats here.
Catch Ist Ist live at the following dates:
14th April – Sebright Arms, London
20th April – Rosi’s, Berlin
28th April – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
5th May – Meet The North Festival, Newcastle
6th May – Cellar Bar, Blackburn
10th May – Rough Trade, Nottingham
17th May – Café Totem, Sheffield