Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #34 - Islet, "Illuminated People"

Cardiff prog. Prog seemed to display twin obsessions with all things Tolkienesque and Welsh; but Cardiff wouldn't be the first place I'd expect to hear some 'ressive rock sounds to rear up like a pencil-drawn, hydra-headed dragonbeast out of a night of distracted A-Level revision. And I know it's a huge generalisation about the Tolkien and stuff; but for all its attempts at heterogeneity, prog has a porridgey consistency in my imagination that is stubborn to shift.

Prog is like jazz and Latin grammar in that it seems to inflect an awful lot of ambitious music; and is more like the latter in that in no longer exists in its own right, but only as an influence. So I'm sharpening my wagging ears to discern whether this is a genuine progressive step backwards with a (hidden) capital P - or a movement in another exploratory direction.

The big marker here is the bronchial organ sound, which grinds out from the outset, and that polyrhythmic drum tinkerings. "Libra Man" piqued my interest as I'm a son of the scales, but the lyrical bent was if anything rather disparaging - "You are a Romeo/Programmed for love... You've got the lion's share/You're you self-satisfied". I chose not to take it personally. I did like to hear the singer struggle with the lower register; ambition trammeled only by ability. And it has some dubby bassline in it, room to move.

"What We Done Wrong" comes across as a more straightforward piece of poppy post-punk with some proggy trappings like that macho organ and some wispy, folky counter melody singing. "Entwined Pines" is the most straightforwardly catchy of the tunes - with a suitable rasping medieval outro.

I suppose that while the idea behind prog was to explore musical spaces around it and suck them in to examine them and have them infect the body of their work, this is more of a cut'n'paste lifting of a sound from its context for colour and texture.

I think I've figured it out, the unease. The spectre of math rock (and not the good Mogwai type stuff) stalks these tunes. "Filia" is heavy with it. "Funicular" is more playful. After just watching something about Roxy Music on Sky Arts, I feel even hungrier for playful music. "A Bear On His Own" seems to have the woman singing while banging her chest to get that chopped up, eye-in-the-sky traffic report effect that I never thought I'd hear anyone commit to "vinyl". Then they're done.

"Now we've got a job explaining/Why this energy is wasted"

I can't quite work out whether this album falls a little flat, whether something has blunted the ambition. It fades towards the end, from "A Warrior That Longs To Grow Herbs" onwards. Doesn't quite rub my nuts yet. Another listen or two might be needed.

Rating: Spiralling out of The Forest

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