Ist Ist continued their tour round Manchester (and Salford)'s iconic venues with a packed out headline show in the austere surroundings of St Philips Church in Salford. Their first gig as a four-piece and a fourteen-song set of their five singles, their recent Spinning Rooms EP and four new ones which should make the follow-up saw them lay further claim to the crown of the best unsigned band in town. Support came from Darma and Dear Caroline.
Darma are loud. Very loud indeed. Yet behind the noise they've got the tunes to back up their volume. They aim to blow you away and quite often they succeed in doing so. Harry, Lloyd and Isaac get an appreciative response from the crowd too, who know their stuff and have got in early to catch them. Even a really strange cover of Abba's SOS hits the spot. There will come a point where they won't need covers as they build their own set of songs to the point where they can dispense with such frivolity. The energy and passion they put into their set transmits itself to the audience as the set progresses and they make a very positive first impression.
There's a similar energy to Dear Caroline who follow. Their songs in the main career ahead at breakneck speed, demanding that the audience keep up, but it's not at the cost of melody and hooks which draw the audience's attention in. The likes of recent single Idle Tongue showcase a band full of ideas and the set is crammed full of potential future singles. They make clever use of brothers Alfie and Joe's vocals to ensure they don't sound like an identikit of other bands in town and it's that ability to stand out from the crowd and a genuine love of performing live that really transmits to us that will serve them well in future.
Three and a half short years ago Ist Ist came into our world like a hurricane, tearing up everything in their path, angry at the world and seeking vengeance on anything that moved. The Ist Ist of 2018 has learned to target their vitriol, channel their tumultuous energy and stand back and survey the wreckage they leave in their considerable wake.
The addition of Mat Peters on keyboards to the original trio of Adam (guitar and vocals), Andy (bass) and Joel (drums) makes perfect sense at this time as they expand their horizons. He doesn’t transform the songs but adds depth and detail to them, giving the likes of Preacher’s Warning and new song Son Is The Father the added punching power to survive amongst the cathartic chaos around them.
The final song of the main set though, another new one called Undignified, doesn’t just hint but stands there with a huge flashing arrow at the direction that Ist Ist are heading. Built around Joel’s drums it has the listener on tenterhooks, ready to duck for cover, at an explosion that never comes. Another new one, I Want To Disappear is so tense, taut and suffocatingly claustrophobic that it’s uncomfortable to listen to but at the same time absolutely gripping and unshakeable. Whilst some gentlemen shout for old favourite Rats, it’s more in jest these days than anticipation as that side of Ist Ist has been well and truly laid to rest.
The two surviving songs from those early days, Emily and Night’s Arm, have survived the journey and have blossomed and spiralled into the majestic beasts they have become. The former even starts a spontaneous clapping along, the sort of thing serious artists view as cheesy, but makes them smile at the bottom of their dark black hearts. They do let some light in at the start of the encore The other two singles White Swan and Silence sound bigger, bolder and more powerful than ever before.
The church is a perfect setting for them, the acoustics accentuate the metallic aspects of Joel’s drumming and Adam sounds like the baddest altar boy sent from the devil to corrupt us, the rich deep tones of his voice and the pent-up release when he lets loose amplified in these rarified surroundings.
As the final notes of a frenzied multi-headed Diversion and Adam’s ear-piercing scream echo around the sacred walls the three hundred and fifty worshippers bow down at the altar of Ist Ist. They might be too dark or difficult for some, they may lack a pop song in their canon and their unerring sense of purpose and steadfast refusal to be moulded might put people off taking them on, but there’s a growing army of believers to whom they’re the most important and best (unsigned) band in Manchester and beyond. The people are never wrong in such matters. Their time is now.
Ist Ist played Preacher’s Warning, I’m Not Here, Exist, Right Before Your Eyes, An Interlude, Emily, Son Is The Father, White Swan, Silence, Night’s Arm, Undignified, Strangers, I Want To Disappear and Diversion
Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Spinning Rooms EP was released on April 6 on CD and 12" vinyl and is available to order from the band's shop. Our review of the EP can be found here.
Our recent interview with them can be found here.