Potentially the biggest album released to date on Manchester’s Melodic label, The Isles’ debut album Perfumed Lands has finally been put to bed in their hometown studios of Action Jackson. For these four twenty-something New Yorkers either have the capacity to bend time and space or appear to have been born in the wrong time and place. Because although their sound is very definitely in the now, it’s almost as if they began writing whilst surrounded by the cream of British 80’s pop, fell into a deep sleep and awoke with hit-seeking precision in a climate where their talents would be best appreciated. ‘We wanted to write songs that didn’t rely on volume or delivery to have an impact. It was almost therapeutic to use two acoustic guitars and get back to the basics of what made us want to play music in the first place’.
Sick of the prevalence of ‘press the button marked chorus’ approach to song writing today, Geller wanted his band’s debut to reflect a more classic ethos of sound. The makeup and application may be spiky and contemporary, but the root of The Isles’ sound is very much that of inspiration via perspiration – hours spent poring over an acoustic guitar trying to pick away at the coalface for the diamonds of song.
‘We try and get across a sense of wonder as opposed to coming across as the life of the urban party…. The traditional “campfire” test is a great tool – does this song translate with one guitar and one voice, in the middle of the woods?’
So we have ten songs which evoke English urban grey, wearing the latest New York fashion. January’s striking single Eve Of The Battle switches from Bunnymen to Strokes with the change of a chord, whilst Flying Under Cheap Kites revels in its excess of melody and discothèque-style backbeat. Summer Loans has an unmistakably East Coast groove but such an intrinsically familiar tapestry of woven guitar parts and vocal melody you’ll swear you’ve been getting up to dance to it for the last ten years. The emphasis is on careful construction, says Andrew, and the art of complex arrangement lives on: ‘I’m obsessive about parts. If a piece doesn’t feel right I’ll keep working. If a melody doesn’t have enough emotion or doesn’t really gel with music I’ll scrap it.’
If it feels like a homecoming record then that’s perhaps because it is: Perfumed Lands is a band’s realisation of its own distinct sound fitting like hand in glove. The Isles aren’t shy of their affinity to the rich songwriting legacy of this sceptred isle, and have delivered a record that’s as comfortable as it is versatile and textured as it is instant. Grab them before they go global.