Island People’s exotic (and adventurous) ambient music swims in the deep end of the pool, the dripping tones floating in their own Atlantis. The colourful, glowing gemstones rest in the glistening water, a glimpse of sunken treasure at the bottom of a deep pool, and the sound of the surf stays in tune with the soft, punctuated heartbeats of percussion. Something is gathering pace, but the music manages to walk between the soothing and the electric, like a swaying palm tree in a tropical thunderstorm.
On their self-titled debut, the four-piece Island People slant their music at a new angle. The textures are watery, but they have a lot of substance to them. Due to geographical issues and practicalities (the four members live in different parts of the world, ranging from Berlin to Glasgow), files had to be exchanged back and forth between the members. One by one, a gentle, butter-smooth sound was sculpted, and it flows beautifully in spite of its stuttering process. Channelled layers flow peaceably and without interruption. It’s a sublime reincarnation of its former self, and a sweet paradox of the dislocated process. Its slow build was a necessary thing, though – it wouldn’t be ambient music if it didn’t take its time.
The heavily processed field recordings are unrecognizable – lost forms and indistinct sources are draped over the music like secret, silky veils covering elusive faces. Like a teenager developing into their true self, these sounds form the permanent personality of Island People, its surf-light atmospheres frothing just under the surface, bathing in tanned echoes. At other times, diluted synths seem to come from the pages of a sci-fi novel. It takes you to another world; less like a simple exercise in escapism and more like a ground-breaking teleportation, as the utterly alien soundscapes bask in blue, morphed sunsets. The music has the dusty vibe of instrumental post-rock – the crisp electric guitar notes twang over empty vistas, the slow-driving bass presses its tires into the gritted dirt roads, and the chilled drums conjure up wavy mirages that burn into the retinas, working magic beside their more electronic counterparts and atmospheres. No more is this the case than in the glorious ‘Sonde’, with a landscape reminiscent of Labradford or Pan American.
This is a cruising altitude; already well on the way to paradise. Darker tones begin to slither over the music, creating a moonlit sonata for the night. The hands of the clock spin around and around until the day fails and the indigo darkens to an invading, solid black light. Along with the night, there arrives a current of intrigue. Strange sounds emerge from the depths of the sea, clothed in swampy black seaweed and bedecked in barnacles. It could come from a black lagoon or from another world. This nascent sound feels otherworldly, and that’s part of what makes it extremely refreshing. The electronic sound is the cold touch of skin on a fizzling soda can’s aluminium, providing contrast and darkness to the guitar’s clean and clear stadium lights. Island People fuse the natural sound of a full band with colder electronics and processed field recordings, making this debut a vacation to remember.