20th September | Louisiana
It’s a comforting thought to entertain that rock can never really die. Sure, it’s had its moments, teetered upon the edges of relevance, seen its limelight begin to fade, but recently the resurgence has become hard to ignore. Helmed by the crossover success of our own IDLES and rallied by the charming insanity of London’s Black MIDI, it seems our romance with the guitar is destined to be a long and interesting tale.
With this in mind, tonight’s opening act seem to have concentrated the tropes of rock and roll into a fine-tuned image of power and excess. Chang don’t answer to anyone and certainly aren’t afraid to make that known. The pounding energy that boils and spills into the room is not only impossible to ignore but testament to the passion and aggression channelled by the band.
Jagged beats and thick layers of guitar provide a fitting bedrock for the more arthouse ingredients of this outfit’s genetic make-up. There are multiple points of reference within Chang’s catalogue that range from vintage Chilli Peppers’ funk to Biffy Clyro’s penchant for riffs. But with the implementation of jazz elements and a heady addition of performance art, the band are able to shake off any fears of imitation and truly carve out a niche of their own.
Manchester’s Ist Ist are probably sick of comparisons to the late Ian Curtis, but it’s impossible not to comment on the influence Joy Division has clearly had on the band’s sound. Droning sirens of morose synth paint a mood of unease and uncertainty that perfectly collides with a driving and purposeful vocal. The clinical precision of this rhythm section cuts deep and hits hard as the pitched instruments of these arrangements somehow manage to inject palpable emotion into a palette of black and grey.
Amongst this pulsating fog of introspective weight, an image of bleak industrialism begins to form, like some kind of interactive theatre art-piece, soundtracked by a hybrid of Kraftwerk and Gary Newman. Amongst this oscillating blanket of driving bass falls some mesmerizingly catchy vocal hooks that would not seem out of place on a TV On The Radio record. The tenor diction presses steadily forwards, as dense as concrete and equally as encompassing.
It’s very clear the impact that Manchester has had on this band: the city’s industrial past and red-bricked exterior are unapologetically present throughout the set. It’s this realisation that provokes the idea that Ist Ist are as visual as they are musical. Not in the conventional sense of flashy logos and stage design but in their innate ability to paint a picture using sound alone. This pleasantly reaffirms their reputation within the artier circles of their influence.
With a fantastic live record available now and a clear drive to expand their reach across the country, I highly recommend you gift them with some of your time. You won’t be disappointed.
See Ist Ist play ‘Silence’ live here: