'As Spinning Rooms shows, they are evolving and fine-tuning the definition of what it means to be Ist Ist.' Music Editor Alexia Kirov reviews Manchester three-piece Ist Ist's first EP, Spinning Rooms, out today.
Manchester three-piece Ist Ist have released a string of singles over the last two years, and, in a bold and courageous move, a DIY live album recorded in the audience. Just as striking and self-assured is their debut EP and first offering on vinyl, Spinning Rooms, out today.
‘Preacher’s Warning’ is Spinning Rooms’ first and lead track, and will already be familiar to those who have seen its intriguing black and white video released at the beginning of last month. “This is a preacher’s warning / All those who come here… die” are singer Adam Houghton’s apocalyptic opening lyrics. Had Spinning Rooms been disappointing, such an opening could have become an unfortunate, ironic statement of intent. But from the first to final track, Spinning Rooms delivers on all fronts. It’s clear from the outset, with the deft, ominous electronics woven around ‘Preacher’s Warning’, and throughout the entire EP, that despite a slightly cleaner, more understated sound than the overdriven rumble of earlier singles, like ‘Night’s Arm’ or 'Silence'’, they have not lost any of the raw spirit that makes their sound so compelling.
The next track is ‘I’m Not Here’, and possibly the strongest of the lot. It contains one of the band’s most immediately striking lyrics, “The room I’m in / It would spin / As if I was the sun”, and is presumably where the EP’s title comes from. Whilst it’s underpinned by a pointed bassline, the guitars float to the forefront during the midsection, before reaching a multi-layered and wonderfully balanced instrumental break. The prominent bass, deep vocals and often introspective lyrics coupled with the fact that they are a Manchester band means it would be easy, but slightly lazy, to make Joy Division comparisons. It’s not as if such a comparison wouldn’t be high praise – but this band are doing important work themselves – they are not derivatively dour. As Spinning Rooms shows, they are evolving and fine-tuning the definition of what it means to be Ist Ist.
The 54 second instrumental ‘An Interlude’ isn’t something you’d necessarily put in a playlist and listen to standalone, but in the context of the EP, it makes sense; it offers a change of pace and helps sculpt the arc of the tracklist. But its title makes it pretty clear that that is its job and it does it well. The following song, ‘Emily’, seems an obvious candidate for the band’s next single, with a guitar riff that reigns it in from being too dark and a playful bassline in the chorus. But if ‘Emily’ is the band at their most radio-friendly on Spinning Rooms, then ‘Diversion’ is them at their most idiosyncratic. The second half of this song that is one of the standout moments of the EP. Just when you think it has come to a close, it has an almighty resurrection and is reborn into something even better: a ferocious, energetic closing salvo, powered by Joel Kay’s urgent drums, that leaves you wanting to listen to the whole EP over again.
Ist Ist have already garnered a strong fanbase in Manchester and beyond – they’re bringing their Spinning Rooms tour up and down the country from the end of next week. It’s a real shame they’re not coming to Bristol just yet, but as they go from strength to strength, it's only a matter of time before they make it down to the South West.
Featured image: Kind Violence Records // Ist Ist