# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Ist Ist - Architecture

  by Adrian Janes

published: 9 / 8 / 2020

Ist Ist - Architecture
Label: Kind Violence Records
Format: CD


Strong debut album from post-punk Mancunians Ist Ist, who while they have Joy Division in their DNA reveal themselves to be no clones

Since they are inevitable, let’s get the main Joy Division comparisons out of the way right at the start. Yes, Ist Ist are a post-punk band from Manchester; Adam Houghton’s sonorous voice does indeed strongly resemble Ian Curtis’s; and the stark darkness of much of the sound, coupled with the ability to switch to an equally fiery attack, has much in common with that of ‘Unknown Pleasures’. All that said, this is a gripping record in its own right, containing ten concise, well-honed songs. On ‘Wolves’ the brooding synth underlay and Houghton’s sombre vocal (“This can only be proof/That there is no God”) are an unsparing introduction to the Ist Ist world, reinforced by the powerful rhythm section and a guitar that tolls like a bell. ‘You’re Mine’ is driven along by a fierce collective energy; the remorseless repetition of the title seems here to be more like a sinister verbal branding than a declaration of love. Mat Peters’ synth overarches the track with an epic feeling. If this song offers one angle on love, ‘Black’ takes up that of romantic despair due to the lover’s sense of inadequacy: “I can’t make the seas part for you/There’s nothing that I’d rather do”, even to the point where “What’s left is only black.” On an album of well-produced songs, the thwack of the drums and the nagging, closely-knit twin guitars are highlights here. A disappointed romanticism runs like a vein through the body of this work. Even the promise of ‘A New Love Song’ comes up against a chilly synth that reinforces the refrain “When the dark draws in/The only one I see is you”, both defying and emphasising loneliness. A wonderfully dirty fuzz bass drives ‘Discipline’. Whether it’s a memo to self or a recommendation to someone else (“What’s good for the body/Is good for your mind”), Houghton sings with an unarguable authority that suggests a lot more than the virtue of not neglecting your gym membership. ‘Silence’ is probably the most Joy Division-like song of all, the guitar tone evocative of ‘Twenty-Four Hours’, and a scattering of effects that recall the unsettling hand of Martin Hannett. A smooth synth tone, like something out of Kraftwerk, contrasted with a colder drone, wash over the listener on ‘Drowning in the Shallow End’ – as in so much of the album, this is a song that keeps a tight-lipped lid on roiling emotions. The struggle this creates is suggested by the synth’s increasing prominence as the song goes on. By this point, ‘Night’s Arm’ appears one of the less distinguished tracks, the Ist Ist approach being well-established. What does stand out is the release of the chorus, in which a massive conflagration of guitars and drums bursts forth. On the stately ‘Under Your Skin’, the repeated line “The Committee won’t permit this” and its variations, build up a mysterious atmosphere, made all the more sinister by the lack of any explanation of this organisation’s function. In the context, “I’m under your skin” becomes another phrase that, uprooted from love songs, now flowers in darkness. The melancholy which characterises ‘Architecture’ seems to have reached its height, as a mournful keyboard and heartbeat bass-drum introduce ‘Slowly We Escape’. Again there is a sorrowful view of an intense relationship: “He moves away from you/Overwhelmed by love.” Yet from this start the guitar and drums abruptly take off at a frantic pace, while Houghton maintains the same grave tone. This, the final track, is the only one that fades out, still at the same speed with guitars furiously fanning out. It’s a (lack of) conclusion which somehow offers a sliver of hope, in spite of all that’s gone before. It can’t be denied that this is an album that has many echoes of Joy Division’s two studio albums, in both sound and style. But comparisons can also be a compliment – if I’m reminded of them, it’s not least because this sounds like the album they might have made if they had continued to pursue a rockier path than that of the increasingly electronica-oriented New Order. On this evidence, Ist Ist certainly have the ability and confidence to develop something even more their own in the future.

Track Listing:-
1 Wolves
2 You're Mine
3 Black
4 Discipline
5 A New Love Song
6 Silence
7 Drowning In The Shallow End
8 Night's Arm
9 Under Your Skin
10 Slowly We Escape

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