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Music Review

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Artist: Ist Ist
Label: Kind Violence
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 01 May 2020

Kind Violence releases Architecture, the debut album by Manchester four-piece Alternative Pop-Rock/Post Punk band Ist Ist. The line-up is Adam Houghton on vocals, Mat Peters on guitar and synth, Andy Keating on bass, and Joel Kay on drums. This combo has built-up their following the old-fashioned way, by word-of-mouth. Formed in 2014, they have since released a string of singles, and two impressive EPs. Architecture is their first full album, inviting us into a dystopian world framed by the fragile human mind. In particular, they explore themes of emotion, anxiousness and redemption. Many of the songs on the album are being released separately with their own individual artwork and accompanying videos. Check out some of these on YouTube.

We begin with 'Wolves', which has a nice bass synth intro and deep baritone vocals reminiscent of pre-New Romantic electronica. The guitar and drums enter halfway through, and we’re treated to a great full band sound instrumental for the second half. This is a simple but compelling sound. 'You’re Mine' is one of the best tracks, with vocals so like Johan Edlund of the Goth Metal band Tiamat it’s amazing. It’s even close in style to the Human League’s 'I Am the Law', sung by Phil Oakley. It’s no surprise that the majority of these tracks have been released with their own videos, as most would work as singles in the normal sense. 'Black' has energy and melody in the style of electronic Pop-Rock. It makes this bright and exciting to listen to. This one has a moderate pace but, whereas many bands tone it down for the verses and crank it up for the chorus, this loses none of its power and drive throughout. You can’t help but get drawn into these songs.

There are shades of New Wave in 'Discipline', using a bass riff and an effective drum pattern to pull you along for the ride. These songs are very well-mixed, too, to bring out the best of all aspects of the band. Nothing is too far down in the mix. 'A New Love Song' starts like a Tubeway Army album track, particularly with the synth theme soaring over the clattering beat. This has a gothic slow pace but, again, is compelling. Throughout, the vocals are ultra-low baritone. 'Silence' possesses the unmistakable influences of several other groups from the height of this genre’s era. You can’t avoid pigeon-holing this sound in the early 1980s – even though it’s bright and refreshing. But the band has an added Rock feel which is part of its magic. The vocals are more varied on this one, too, raising in pitch and cadence without ever losing control.

'Drowning in the Shallow End' is closer to straight commercial pop. It’s disappointing because it reminds me of when this genre lost its edge and played to pop chart expectations. The drum machine is really annoying as well. Let’s look on this one as an oversight. We’re back on track with the brilliant 'Night’s Arm', which incorporates a throbbing back-beat and crashing energetic and melodic intrusions, sweeping everything away before it. Parts of this sound like a classic song I can’t place (perhaps Tiamat again). 'Under Your Skin' highlights the very wide sound ist ist has. The vocals seem to reach out beyond the song itself. Another simple but effective track. We conclude with 'Slowly We Escape'. This opens with a quiet keyboard and pattering percussion – slow and deliberate, until halfway through when the song changes entirely, with only the vocals maintaining the link. The tempo turns to galloping, with ringing guitar and synth making the noticeable chord changes. Not the best of the pack to finish with, but I can’t find much fault with this excellent debut album. I’m intrigued to know where they’ll go with the notoriously difficult second album. Perhaps they could introduce a little more Electronica into the mix. It was very inventive in the late 1970s and would suit this band down to the ground.


Ty Power

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