Islet is the full-length ten-track debut by the trio of Peptalk from Greenpoint, New York, with each of the musicians being a veteran or skillful iconoclast him- or herself. Released in June 2015 on Home Assembly Music and available in a limited edition of 250 vinyl releases as well as digital versions that are available on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and cohorts, the album is envisioned and played from start to finish by keyboarder and electronic gadgeteer Michael Carter, percussionist Shayna Dunkelman and vocalist Angelica Negron. Islet sports a beautifully exotic title, but is quite a bit more dubious than you might expect. The press blurb reads almost apologetic in this regard: "The folks in Peptalk usually hang about with experimental artists who make transgression their first port of call."


Only consequentially, names like Xiu Xiu, Thurston Moore and even Yoko Ono fly by, and indeed, the eclectic spirit of these encounters is undoubtedly in the mephitic air of Islet, what with its battery of softly apocalyptic violins, horns of Jericho and creepy organs. However, these dooming entities are countered by shimmering vibraphones and marimbas, afforesting bongos and congas as well as the healthy gravitas of a saltwater-evoking accordion. And yet: not a single one of the tracks contains a mood that can be safely pinpointed and denoted with ease. The tracks flow and float, sizzle and simmer, changing the flavor of their rhythms from a Caribbean locale in order to transmute into an Occidental megacity stomper mere seconds later. J-Pop vestiges, Third-Stream vesicles, Exotica vehicles, here’s a closer look at a multifaceted polyvalent apoptosis called Islet.


Welcome to Panorama, the opener that could have been called Diorama as well, given that the umbrageous front artwork sports quite a few panchromatic speckles and superstructures too. This first track is therefore fittingly gyring between solanum hues in hatched colors and nomological handclap-infested sinews. After the ogival organ orogeny in the anacrusis, ligneous congas and aqueous vibes become enmeshed in a muted trumpet-accentuated perianth. Eclectic like Third-Stream music, labyrinthine as the darkness, the flamboyancy is kept at a low level… yet. The adjacent Driftwood is keeping a low profile in this regard as well, but what it lacks in technicolor, it injects with the hauntingly hollow vocals of Angelica Negron, the Gothic clavichord/organ synergy of Michael Carter and the cavernous beat-filled interstices of nothingness. The accordion-esque textures make this a perihelic sea shanty whose title fits the agglutinated soundscape splendidly.


With St Michael’s Mount, the exoticism is revved up, though still remaining in a foggy thiazide. The oomph of Shayna Dunkelman’s conga coppice, the Reggae-infested guitar granuloma, the high-rise vocals in tandem with a laid-back maraca gro(o)ve and the short bugle protrusions augment the jungular feeling, letting this feel like the immersive doldrums before a violent hunt. The adjacent Bow Chaser meanwhile opens the rift to Trinidadian marimba mica, and considering the stacked organ/brass photodissociation that is juxtaposed with a breakbeat pattern coming straight out of a concrete jungle, I’m not so sure whether the aliphatic jumble doesn’t keep a stringent homeostasis after all. With Nilbog, the trio reaches sun-dappled shores with a few accordion chords in b-minor, spawning vitreous clings and a fairy tale-evoking polarimetry vocal-wise. Everything feels silky, basked in pectin. This is one great phoresy, only outshone by the even more translucent title track Islet whose vibraphone proteostasis proselytizes in tandem with the fluid-processed violins in order to create a punctilio that is simultaneously playful and portentous, a pair of opposites that is denominating in the given endemic realms of Peptalk.


Podesta meanwhile is a showstopper due to its medulla-emptying bassline alone which is inspired by Dubstep but otherwise keeps its head up high and in perfect order. The kaleidoscopic magnetotails of the instruments, however, truly keep the song going, ranging from mountainous trumpets over pentatonic harp helixes to marimba mica. Don’t miss the final shapeshifting segue where the trio enters the baroclinic boundaries of the big city with a beat-and-percussion spectrum that is tidally flexing alright. Up next is Saltie, a chaparral of the utmost tropical kind and certainly one of the best constituents of the album. Whether it is the ominous violin, the conga/bongo blebs complete with ophidian guiros or the mesmerizingly marimbalicious rotoscoping, this place is hued in twilight but never losing its debonair cenobitism. The penultimate Endall sees the return of Angelica Negron’s gelid vocals in another pentatonic ecomorph of Glitch/Drum’n’Bass-oriented tonalities, molybdenized sunset twirls and rotenone-coated bass bursts before the actual endpoint Locus rolls along in a fluvio-lacustrine fashion, being benthic and viscid due to its billow-like synth micrometry, bewitching vocals that are cavernous like phytotelemata and a viridian marimba aorta that rounds off the violin-interspersed antrum exoticum.


Where there’s shadow, there’s light. This is the stylistic gist of Peptalk’s Islet in a coconut shell, and it applies to the aural aureoles, the photometry that is evoked by means of the chosen instruments, the textures and patterns, the surfaces and surfactants as well as the timbres and tonalities. The genre of Exotica is vivacious, full of adventures, but also prone to take a closer look at beautiful vistas. Islet encompasses these three constituents, and yet you wouldn’t probably believe how willfully plethoric and expertly remote the compositions are. Paradisiac pericarps are followed by nematocidal nullspaces, sun-kissed topiaries are suddenly turned into desiccated chloroderivatives, and an alkaliphilic syncytium receives a salubrious ignis fatuus with the aid of a marimba.


The trio openly plays with the expectations, manages to absorb the convoluted convulsions of complex Jazz jitters and pour them into a cautious Hip-Hop halide, never forgetting the exotic erethism on this journey. The vintage Exotica aficionado might be bewildered many a time due to the expected flashbacks being followed by entirely unexpected megafaunas as well as the clever interplay between sound, sustain and silence, darkness and light, but that’s what Islet is indeed ultimately about: its colors translate into aposematism. Big boy pants and night-vision devices are thus recommended.


Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase Islet at iTunes, Amazon MP3 and cohorts. 
  • Peptalk on the Twitterz: @PeptalkMusic


Exotica Review 441: Peptalk – Islet (2015). Originally published on Jul. 11, 2015 at