You know how they say some people look like their dogs, well Cults look like their name. With a membership where shoulder length dark hair and a faraway sound in your voice is mandatory, this New York based dream pop outfit could easily be mistaken for members of the Manson family or even a right wing religious Christian group called something like ‘The Commune’.
On the night in question, The Garage in Highbury was the place they were sending out their newly formed message to their dedicated followers. With it’s large headspace and curved ceiling, the room feels like being in an aircraft hangar or in the bows of an upturned ship. However, Cults overcame this cavernous and shadowy scene by filling the space with as much colour as possible; spiralling scarlets and soft purples were reflected off the drum cymbals each time it was hit the way the moon does against the midnight waves. Directly behind singer Madeline Follin were two screens onto which stylised, 30s inspired early animation videos were projected, each song being paired with a different themed video; some bright and colourful like freshly painted Navajo art, others with soft rouged palette circles akin to car headlights in the rain.
All this colour was set to a wistful, astral set list. Soft, soporific wails and jangly lilted vocals were distorted and warped; it was like listening to a 60s girl group on a vinyl record that has started to melt in the sun, music that’s dripping in hymnal fractals. Follin’s vocals have a whisper of Kate Bush about them, smatterings of Bat For Lashes and Suzanne Vega, whilst the piano melodies are filled with gospel chirpings and stinging synth lines that snap like a tight hamstring.
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As a group, Cults are better when they remove the training wheels and elbow pads and just belt it out. When they play heavier and harder their message comes out clearer. But in ‘Go Outside’ they have a song worth belting out. It’s one of those classically simple melodies that will still be great in 60 years’ time, a twinkling, lustrous song that everyone in the crowd was waiting to lap up like Kool-Aid.
Don’t worry though, the irony wasn’t lost at all. A group called Cults who look like members of the Baader-Meinhof group that finish on a song called ‘Go Outside’ whose orders their faithful crowd of disciples enact immediately as they leave into the cold night streets. It’s clever, and they’re a band worth following, even if it might be into an underground doomsday bunker.
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