The scattered array of audience members are all engrossed as soon as Is I Cinema are up on they stage and quite rightly so as they are one of those bands that will do something magical the second you blink and lose concentration for even a split second. Unlike a lot of acts that strive to be of a similar quality however, its incredible easy to get hooked straight away from the off. Maybe the interest however was sparked by frontman Dom Fletcher bringing up the issue that Paddington Bear was actually a Peruvian immigrant. As people’s fond childhood memories lay scattered across the floor of Venue 1, aside from one joker who asks about Rupert The Bear, the band get to it.
Lead guitarist Carl Wells is clearly a very talented guitarist, but like all good bands he doesn’t need to demonstrate this every thirty seconds, and in a band such as Is I Cinema, the main worry is that such a show off amongst a group of this talent can lead to a twenty minute musical wank. Fortunately however, he contributes inspired droning wails and howls that extend the guitar beyond its traditional capabilities. The five piece present extended sessions of bizarre brilliance without alienating the more casual gig goers with something that is intentionally over obscure and perhaps more importantly, they prove that you can perform a live set of challenging music without having to whore out live electronics, samples and massive synthesisers – during the set a sample beat is used once and sparingly for maximum effect in the second half. To be honest though, pre-programmed beats aren’t really needed with Olly Forrester’s meticulous and vibrant drum parts that pack so much in while remaining completely fluent and appearing natural.
Taking into account the lack of ‘alternative band cool gear’ on stage, it really is remarkable that such a sound is created by just two guitars, a set of drums, a bass and a keyboard. ‘Innocent X’ begins with an ominous toy box line that is shortly followed by a song that is comforting yet tense – like cuddling up under a warm blanket of nails. The eight minute plus epic is a return ticket to Hell fires and back that’s perfectly punctuated with shaking, picking guitar lines, a groove led bass part that really adds something special to the bottom end, and in turn, huge percussive crashes and guitar scratching.
Its difficult to not compare Is I Cinema to the post-OK Computer Radiohead – not just because of their texturing and atmosphere, but their impossibly expansive palette and relentless ambition to simply make music that engages the brain and the soul over conventional, bloated songwriting elevates them above the glut of experimental and alternative local talent. At a slow building climax, Dom proceeds to answer the question posed to him at the beginning of the set: “To answer your question mate, I’m pretty sure Rupert The Bear is from the Home Counties – you can tell by his scarf, and because he’s got a fucking Daily Mail in his bag” this little interjection is timed perfectly as it rises into the climax and resulting massive explosion of a huge refrain of one of their later numbers.
The completely unassuming bunch quickly and quietly shuffle off after playing one of the freshest and most inspiring sets of live music we’ve seen in a long time. Make your trip to the Is I Cinema experience as soon as you get the chance or miss out on something truly special.