Is / Is - This Happening EP

Mike Hughes 04/01/2011

Rating: 4.5/5

Is / Is have a confident slow lope about them, built on bass-lines played right up front alongside the guitar, the lead vocal of Sarah Rose sounding at times like she's shouting into a box. Given that it's three girls from the mid-west, it was odd that their power trio set up inspired me to go and search out 40 year old recordings The Groundhogs. If you want a more accurate recipe for the sound, take some semi-straight 'born in the 60s' melodies, rake gravel into them, pour through a concrete mixer of feedback fuzz, then infuse and tamp a lagging female vocal well down into the surface so that it will never properly set and harden. Got that? Except that makes them sound just like every 'gaze band from the Mary Chain onwards, so I'd better add that those half-lost vocals and that raw bluesy back beat do it good enough that I'm hooked on the strung out abandonment; truly this is one of only two records in the last 12 months that have had me obsessively turning it over on repeat.

The trio come together from a couple of disparate bands that might make you think that Minnesota is some sort of nodal interstice of here and now talent. But there again, you can play that game with maps and circles to prove everything and nothing. The quality bass playing comes from Sarah Nienaber, otherwise front-woman in Gospel Gossip, already a favourite and making notable waves of their own for a year or two. Sarah Rose and drummer Mara Appel have some shared history in another local band, First Communion Afterparty.

I've got the idea from somewhere that when the girls kicked it off, this project was kind of temporary, an experiment, but what they've started has got some definite legs and is worth hearing more of, certainly more than the four tracks on debut EP 'This Happening'.

The pop heritage is never more apparent than in 'So Long' - a song where the dragging vocal foretells of imminent winter under a glowering sky of thundering guitar, evoking ideas of both the heavens and your life rushing forward despite every attempt to set it in aspic. If I've made it sound it sound at all pretty, 'Eating Hourglasses' rocks more than enough to get your head down and shaken out, valves popping. Was it simply wilful to give themselves the google-impossible name of
Is/Is? Thank heavens for hotlinks!