I first saw Islet at the Baltic annexe, Baltic39 in High Bridge, Newcastle in January as part of the RIFF festival closing event and was so impressed by their uniquely unorthodox experimental approach to their music I knew I had to see them again. This was easier said than done as their gigs are few and far between and even then they are usually as part of either music festivals or art exhibitions. Holy Smokes came to the rescue in the form of a gig at The Chocolate Factory in Derby. The Chocalate Factory is exactly what it says on the tin, an old industrial unit that was once home to a chocolate factory. Now the machinery has been completely removed and all the walls whitewashed to make a general exhibition, performance and arts space in the middle of an industrial area between the railway station and the town centre. I had met up with a couple of mates in the legendary Derby watering hole The Brunswick Inn for a couple of jars before the gig. We got a bit thirsty en-route to the venue so popped into the Alexandra (about 50 yards away) for a swift one and arrived at the venue around 8:15. Luckily one of the lads I met up with had lived in Derby for a couple of years and knew where the Chocolate Factory was as it was an anonymous industrial unit with no signs at all indicating what artistic treasures lay inside.
Once inside we stopped off at the bar and grabbed some bottled Jennings beer and had a quick tour of the exhibition which was a video and a photographic exhibition of boxing images by a local artist. Then it was round the corner to the performance area to see the Electronic music based support band, Ghost Twins. Not really my type of music although it was Ok when they upped the tempo and became more rock orientated. All the keyboards and drum kit got removed in record time and Islet got their gear sorted out and sound checked ready for the start of their set at 9:30.
At 9:25 they made their way to the back of the hall and with hand bells ringing, all the band members wandered through the crowd towards the stage area with the bells becoming increasingly loud as they approached the stage. The drums were the first to start, very quietly at first then getting progressively louder as Emma started leaping around and yelping the vocals to the magnificent ‘This Fortune’ which is the stunning opening track of the set. ‘Ringerz’ was next with Mark taking over the lead vocals now for the rest of the gig and Emma moving over to be second drummer. As the track started she was drumming on the lighting gantry, one of the monitors then back on the gantry before starting on the drums proper as well as providing backing vocals to Mark. Ringerz continued into a slower more melodic (at times) track and as it faded to the end Mark says that song was called ‘Triangulation Station’, it is about a triangulation station which got a few blank looks from the audience. He went on to say “thanks for having us, who got given a chocolate on the way in?” Someone shouted out no and Mark says “WTF, you should get back there and say what is wrong with him!” They started the slow build up into the magnificent ‘Iris’ which saw Mark throwing and dragging his keyboard around the stage (well the area of the floor that served as a stage) and after another round of thanks to the Format festival and Holy Smokes the heavy drum intro of ‘Tripping through the Blue Room Part I’ preceeded ‘part II’ and the last track of the set was ‘Carlos’.
This was another top notch gig from this uniquely different band, a shorter set than the last time I saw them in Newcastle but I wasn’t complaining as it meant I could see most of another gig in the centre of town straight after they finished. This is yet another band on the must see again list which really is getting quite long now…