Ist Ist return with their second EP Everything Is Different Now released on January 25th ahead of a UK tour including an almost sold-out Independent Venue Week show at Hebden Bridge Trades Club and a return to Manchester's Gorilla. Still unsigned, ploughing their own furrow against the tide of the here this morning gone by lunchtime "look at us" culture that's polluting the music business, the EP sees the band expanding both in size and ambition, stretching themselves and their growing audience in the process.
There's an obsession in the music business with "bangers", three minute pieces of music that bear no context to anything else other than the time it takes to listen to it, or more likely flick on after thirty seconds to the next song on the greasily-palmed all-important playlist where plays mean everything except substance, sale of physical product and quite often gig tickets. Ist Ist have been one of those at the forefront of the revolt against that over the past two years, limited edition handmade CD singles, live bootlegs and most importantly their statement debut EP Spinning Rooms that came out in the first half of last year. They're back with its follow-up Everything Is Different Now, an apt title given that they've expanded to a four-piece in the meantime, expanding their horizons in the process, steadfastly refusing to kow-tow and play the game and in the process expanding their reach further to those that still champion what they're doing.
Opening track Entry makes that statement. It's a seventy-five second brooding menacing instrumental, as dark and foreboding as the Manchester mills in which they create their art. It means little in its own right, background music for a desolate black and white film documentary, but in the context of the EP, it says everything. Everything Is Different Now, like its predecessor, is made to be listened to in the order they have chosen, in one sitting, rather than a string of songs that possess no glue to bind them together.
Exist was the first track revealed from the EP and like the rest of the first half of the record will tender to those wanting an extension of whatever brought them to Ist Ist in the first place. Yet, it immediately sets its stall out to dispel any of those lazy Joy Division comparisons that seem to be hanging around them like a bad smell. Listen to Joel's opening drum beat that ushers it in and dictates matters throughout and the way the chorus soars up out of the middle of them as the guitars charge in. As the drums take back control at the end and drive Exist to its conclusion you sense just how connected the four of them are when they get together in a room to create. It's the sort of single that if they came from New York people would be fawning over themselves to laud.
Right from the start of Father Is The Son it's noticeable just how much space there is on this recording. The production is so light-touch that you can hear everything. Each little subtlety is amplified, from Andy's opening bass lines that give way to Joel's drums that once again underpin the verses and this allows Adam to not have to fight for space to add expression to his vocals meaning that you can hear the emotional tension in his voice as he imparts his inner thoughts. A song that starts about birth and how it changes perspectives on life, its chorus gives the EP its title, it concludes with the stark declaration of "now you're gone" as one life takes the place of another.
Jennifer's Lips is perhaps the most immediate of the tracks off the EP, a memorable hook line coming in and out of the verses over a rhythmic drum beat that once again calls the tune. The production again gives the clarity that the deep-down complexity of Ist Ist's sound demands, although you'll need the vinyl to fully appreciate that rather than the compressed streams that remove the requirement for depth and detail. It's the closest they've come to capturing that claustrophobic thrill of an Ist Ist live show where their sound comes at you from four directions, each of them demanding your attention.
The second half of the EP is where Ist Ist spread their wings, more gracefully than you could ever imagine them doing when they were blasting out long-gone favourites such as Brutalize and Left For Dead. There’s a sense of unease around I Want To Disappear, a tension that grips you vice like on first listen as you wait like Pavlov’s dog for the onslaught that never comes. It simmers and shimmers around a keyboard line that’s so deep in the mix you can’t reach out and touch it as is the sample of distant laughter that ushers it in. Drums are so precise, delicate, as is the emotion in Adam’s vocal as he pleads “talk to me, I want to disappear” with a slowly growing sense of desperation as the song progresses.
It’s a similar sense that permeates through the final track Undignified although the journey Ist Ist take us on with it is a more winding and experimental one sonically. It’s where newcomer Mat’s influence is most keenly felt and where Ist Ist most push the boundaries of their sound way past what you’d expect of them had their quintet of pre-Spinning Rooms singles been your introduction. Drums brood menacingly in the background, building the trepidation and uneasiness of where the song is taking you, setting your back up waiting for the explosion that never comes. It’s a song of searching for answers, Adam musing “I was blind, we had disconnected.... none of this means much to me” before everything drops away for the last minute to dark cloying atmospherics that are the Exit to the opening track’s Entry.
Everything Is Different Now is an EP in the truest sense of the word, a set of songs that take the listener on a journey not a collection of singles thrown together after they’ve all been heard before. It should also dispel those comparisons that sit like an albatross around Ist Ist’s neck. A prominent bassline, dark claustrophobic intensity and hailing from somewhere with a Manchester postcode make for easy lazy labelling but Everything Is Different Now is far more complex and revealing than that. The growth in Ist Ist’s popularity is through word of mouth as they have no huge promotional budget, glossy videos or transparent partnerships to fall back on; it’s organic linked to the music, their live performance and the genuine connections they are making in increasing numbers at home and further afield.
Whether they end up as one of those bands spoken about in reverential terms by a few or experience the slow burn success of bands that genuinely matter like The Slow Readers Club or The National remains to be seen. But that’s for another day; right now Everything Is Different Now feels like it should be a prescient title for the record should it receive the acclaim it deserves.
Ist Ist play Hebden Bridge Trades Club (January 30), Leeds Lending Room (February 28), London Sebright Arms (March 1), Hull Polar Bear (5), Sheffield Cafe Totem (9), Nottingham Rough Trade (15), Manchester Gorilla (16), Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's (30).
Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter.
The EP is available on red and black vinyl and CD to order from their website alongside limited remaining copies of Spinning Rooms