Cults at the Garage
The Manhattan duo outfit, Cults, had no problems filling the spacious and open Garage, both with fans and their powerful sound reminiscent of a kind of energised shoegaze. Singer Madeline Follin stood centre-stage, bathed in the lights of the projected graphics, with co-member Brian Oblivion and the supporting musicians occupying the sides. Oblivion also contributed his guttural voice, and its combination with Follin’s female sound, embedded within the overall balance of the music, created a dark ambiguity, best heard in the first two tracks, Offering and Abducted. This whole scene was introduced well by a sinister, looped synth sample that played for a few minutes before Cults began filling the stage.
The band layout, sound balance and psychedelic graphics demonstrated a clear attempt to provide a holistic experience for the audience. This attempt – eagerly accepted by the crowd – was largely successful, and was compounded by Follin’s hypnotic swaying and the dreamy, sometimes even trance-like riffs.
However, these did not define the sound, which was almost always highly powered, achieved by a lack of solos, and short, full-on bridges tying one climax to the next in quick succession. Nevertheless, there was the occasional track (namely Talk In Circles) that brought the mood to a more downbeat, relaxed place. Yet this consistent energy was not homogenous, and Cults covered a range of styles: from the powered-up shoegaze previously mentioned to a more poppy and upbeat pastiche psychedelic style – as in Always Forever – and a rocking, distorted emotionality.
Unfortunately, the sound balance did not help this variety, and failed to adapt to the changing circumstances. The strong drumming and embedded vocals did not have the desired effect when the lyrics attempted to stand out more than in the opening songs (such as I Took Your Picture). It was as if the music was being heard from the bottom up, and the percussion and bass totally dominated whilst the guitar and vocals were pushed into the background. Attempts to adjust the levels and draw Follin’s voice forward resulted in lots of feedback and a further imbalance where her voice felt too big for the space. When this happened, the slightly nasal and perhaps mismatched vocal style, given the nature of the music, could be heard.
Overall, however, the compelling rhythms and engaging atmosphere of the music made the concert very enjoyable and Cults had undoubtedly won the audience over before they even started.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit Cults’ website here.
Watch the video for Offering here: