Album review: Ist Ist – Architecture
- Credit: Archant
Manchester post-punk quartet’s debut LP is dark and doomy, yet easy on the ear.
Ist Ist have built a cult following over the last six years, self-releasing singles and EPs, clawing their way into music fans’ consciousness the old-fashioned way by plying their dystopian lyrical wares and creating striking videos and light shows on the live circuit.
With this debut LP, released via their own self-funded record label, the Manchester quartet have had total control over their brand – drawing on emotional turmoil, anxiousness and redemption, and executed through slicky-produced synth-and-guitar arrangements and monochromatic visuals.
Post-punk is a broad church, and while these chaps might wallow in the dour aesthetics that can be found in its antechambers, Architecture is built on accessible pop foundations – this is for fans of Interpol and fellow Mancunians The Slow Readers Club rather than PiL.
Lead single Wolves introduces the album with strafes of sinister early ‘80s sci-fi movie synth effects before a pair of electric guitars take over in a restrained interplay.
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Lead singer Adam Houghton’s fulsome baritone remains calm and controlled against the lupine existential threat; the song documents a woman’s descent into paranoia, her metaphorical nightmares fuelled by the fear of social services taking her child.
The music is aloof and a little pedestrian in both pace and imagination, and undersells the band’s talents, with stronger material elsewhere.
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For example, You’re Mine’s driving pace, cantering hi-hat, gloaming synth sound beds and ominous guitar chords help raise the record’s pulse, especially when paired with Houghton’s semi-robotic delivery – the band’s most distinct watermark.
Elsewhere, Black opens with floaty, upbeat synths, joined by soaring chord progressions and backing singers that lift Houghton from the doldrums as he sings “What’s left is only black, black, black, black”.
The current lockdown helps amplify the 1984-style overtones in Discipline, as Houghton delivers central line “What’s good for the mind is good for the body / What you need is some self-control”, echoed by a choir as fuzzed guitar and Bladerunner synths swirl around.
A New Love Song is arguably the most sinister listen, to these ears a stalker’s paean to their unwitting target, delivered slowly and deliberately with wrought guitar, stretched synths and stuttering drums. Ist Ist sure have doomy pretentions, but their use of accessible melodic foundations make Architecture a surprisingly easy listen.