Dalston’s Café OTO is the perfect setting for the infamously promo-shy Islet. It’s as basic as their approach to publicity; mismatched fold-up wooden chairs are scattered in front of the makeshift stage, marked out by a curtain against the wall. Slices of homemade cake sit alongside bottles of organic cider on the bar, and paint is flaking off the bulky brick walls. Its chaotic mix of styles has an exciting DIY charm…much like Islet themsleves.
Equally at home in the dark, backstreet cafe are Gyratory System. A mind boggling mix of Metronomy-style electronica and dirty, distorted funk, their instrumental set sees them juggling brass, keys and strings, but the trio are so shy that whenever one of them isn’t playing, they physically look away or turn their back to the audience, who are seated almost on the stage, staring straight at them.
The word shy doesn’t register on planet Islet. Their name might refer to an uninhabitable, tiny island, but there’s nothing small or empty about them. Preparing for the bonkers factor to be notched up a few clicks, the staff pack the chairs away and the crowd surges forward as the Cardiff-based band bound on stage. They pogo in and out of the crowd like hyperactive toddlers, screaming into their microphones…and that’s before they’ve even played a note.
Most of their two EPs, Wimmy and Celebrate This Place, gets a look in. Holly (“A song about the plant. And the woman,”) has a brutal, raw energy. Chaotic and clattering, it’s got a heavy bass line that sparks off their ever present, ferocious drumming. Drums are central to what Islet do, principally because it’s an easy way of making loads of noise. They share drumming duties, sometimes not even needing a drum kit, opting for an amp or the ceiling instead, and at one point all four of them are at it, in a drumming frenzy, their trademark yelps and growls offering the only escape from the ear-bashing.
“This song’s about the police and their brutality at some events,” we’re told of the brilliant Horses And Dogs. It was only yesterday that student protestors descended on Westminster, but that seems to have bypassed this pocket of East London, and the reference flies over their heads. Its poignancy might have been lost, but the song still packs an almighty punch. Along with the Gang Gang Dance-esque soundscapes and Gang Of Four‘s industrial brutality, Horses And Dogs has a growling, irresistible chorus that’s a tempting glimpse of what Islet could be if they shifted their focus slightly. Not that that’s on the mind of most here tonight, who are still chanting and screaming after Islet have left the stage.