With their debut EP release Spinning Rooms sold out on vinyl and its follow-up Everything Is Different Now close behind, Ist Ist have taken the novel approach of re-recording them in one day in the studio and combining them on this Sessions release rather than simply repress them.
The songs are ordered as they are on the EPs so side one starts with Spinning Rooms' opening track Preacher's Warning. This EP was recorded while the band were still a three-piece so the impact of Mat Peters on the final output is most keenly felt on these songs. Immediately noticeable is the warmth in Adam's voice, richer and deeper and more expressive than on the original recording, whilst the nature of the recording means there's more space for everything to be heard. You can hear the slightest emotional crack in the voice when Adam sings "give me love, give me circumvention" and it's all the more powerful for it, as it the tension in the breakdown that replaces the claustrophobia of the original.
I'm Not Here again feels like it has a stronger clarity of purpose, unsurprising given the band's development since these songs were originally recorded, both in personnel but also in their live performances, which these to a great extent effectively are. Guitars and bass are turned up in the mix, particularly again in the breakdown, with Joel's drum sitting deeper at the back controlling the whole thing from a distance.
Emily is one of their earliest songs, a demo featuring on their handmade B compilation that's now as rare as hell, and Ist Ist's ability to change it and keep it fresh without diluting the emotional power of the song has ensured it's still a regular feature of the setlist. With Mat's subtle additions to this version and Adam's vocals sounding even more wrought as the song progresses, it's possibly the best version of the lot.
Diversion has been a regular conclusion to the live set, possessing the sort of power in a hot sweaty venue that's virtually impossible to bottle and distill onto vinyl - check out their two live CDs from Gorilla shows if you can find one for evidence. Here they make a fist at it though and the result sits comfortably in the middle of the original and those versions, stopping dead half way through and building back and it's in that second half where they capture something that allows you to shut your eyes and transport yourself to the moshpit.
Everything Is Different Now was recorded with Mat in the band, so creating something different from the original versions is a harder task. Exist has a more urgent feel to it, as if they've deliberately speeded the song up to create just that effect. Again, the session-style recording allows it to feel more raw and more closely replicate the live experience.
Son Is The Father has a much more prominent bass line to it, deep down in the mix, played like a lead for large parts of the song. The nature of the recording means that there is no time to try and capture the perfect version of the song; the breakdown sounds like they're jamming and trying out a new idea and works brilliantly in demonstrating how Ist Ist are not a band that just write a song and play it the same way for the rest of its life.
Jennifer's Lips sounds even more like the radio-friendly single it should have been, if the powers to be would ever deem to allow songs from outside their circle of friends and partners to permeate the playlist. It has more than enough to allow inevitable lazy comparisons to be made, but whilst retaining their personality to ensure they could be dismissed as the nonsense they are. Adam adds in "she sings to me", something he's sung over the breakdown when they've performed it live.
I Want To Disappear and Undignified showcased a different side to Ist Ist than we'd seen before when they made up the second half of Everything Is Different Now and here the band take them further down the path away from the headrush early singles White Swan and Strangers. Here once again, the songs feel like they've been given more room to breath, the band's stretch for perfection in every note, in every subtlety of the mix having to be compromised because of the recording methods and time frame. Rather than diminish the quality though, it just shows that they're a band with so many possibilities as to what they can do that it's a thankless task settling on the final version, something they'll have to contend with on their debut album proper that they've demoed and are ready to go and record.
For now, Sessions feels like a debut album though in many senses in the same way that Dung 4 felt like Inspiral Carpets' debut. It's a line in the sand over phase three of Ist Ist (the first being the days of opening slots on bills to a handful of people with sonic assaults like Brutalize, Left For Dead and Rats, the second being that run of five singles - White Swan, Night's Arm, Silence, Strangers and Right Before Your Eyes - that took them to headlining Gorilla, The Ritz and Head For The Hills festival) as they seek to move onwards and upwards with the excitement of making their first record. It's as an essential document of the band as all their previous limited edition releases.
Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Sessions EP is available from their shop and is available from Friday August 30th.
They play London Thousand Island (September 19), Bristol Louisiana (20), Glasgow Hug And Pint (21), Bury Met (28), Birmingham The Flapper (October 3) and York Fulford Arms (5).