Encountering St. Vincent – Gateshead Sage

On the 27th August I experienced first hand the marvel and enigma that is Annie Clark a.k.a St. Vincent. One of the most spectacular events that you could experience in combining her truly innovative and ground breaking music with striking theatrics, effects and coolly executed dramatics. These were evident from the off as the synth bounces of ‘Rattlesnake’ hit the applause and St. Vincent strolled on to carry out a series of poses and stances before a urgent and crisp delivery of the track whilst moving on to ‘Digital Witnesses’ with all it’s live intricacies and detail of each strike of her guitar and slick presentation that is occasionally intercepted by Wiry and metallic guitar solos, which are delivered with ease. She went on to engage the audience by guessing the nickname for the people of “Newcastle slash Gateshead” was “Peaches” and that their favourite word was “osteology” which we might use in reference to “sex, food and music” and with the audience sort of nervously hanging on every word; she went on to make the subtle point that we’re all the same as we all hope. Words as simple as anything but made more potent and thought provoking like St. Vincent does with her music. Classic tracks like ‘Cruel’ and ‘Marrow’ were delivered with the biggest and boldest transitions between the song’s subdued distance and towards the heavily distorted, yet direct riffs as she shuffled her feet in a manic fashion in unison with the strobe lights to make it seem she was almost hovering. All of this while she was still wresting with her guitar at the same time. A sight to behold.
She went on to talk about accidently stealing from Tesco or Sainsbury’s and setting fire to a neighbourhood with a magnifying glass with a real sinister yet comic tinge, before concluding “Shit man, that’s life”. Her marvellous song range then swept through ‘Laughing with a Mouth of Blood’, ‘Surgeon’ and ‘Actor Out Of Work’ before delivering ‘Cheerleader’ with a huge kick and a punch as the track pounded it’s way towards the chorus as she smoothly slipped into the mysterious and almost tragic nostalgia of ‘Prince Johnny’, which she delivered from atop her podium, standing bold and high above the stage and audience. Of course this ended with her haunting slither down her podium, encased with flashing lights and wailing synths. This uneasy and temporary inertia was soon broken by the synchronised moves of Clark and the rest of her band to the warped distortion of ‘Birth In Reverse’ and ‘Regret’. The latter extended the pause to about ten seconds and it was nearly a lifetime (or it felt as such) before she broke her freeze and continued with the song’s conclusion. ‘Huey Newton’ was still able to stand out amongst an entire set list of quite simply huge tracks. The meandering first half of the track was obliterated by the grinding, distorted drive of the second half, that featured quaking guitars that completely rattled you in the most thrilling way imaginable. Time to catch your breath is fleeting as the rapid tinged insanity of ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ fired and shot it’s way at your senses. As if in a wonderful paradox or perfect manipulation, the show or event was concluded by the lone St. Vincent playing out ‘Strange Mercy’ on her podium. Then with a bow she was off. That was it. It felt a little too fast as it would when you become completely immersed in something. Immersed in music for the first time without the comfort of my headphones or speakers in my room, but with the natural sounds enveloping me. No artist I have seen has ever done that and I think it’s the ultimate compliment to St. Vincent I can give. I was sat down throughout, but you had to be. It craved your undivided attention as she had given her undivided effort and imagination to it. It may sound so boringly cliché but it had a profound effect on me. I’m still having flashbacks…

Cults – Static Review

Cults had a pretty successful debut in 2011 with the self title Cults. They didn’t smash any boundaries or anything but songs such as ‘Abducted’ showed their ability to take the generic indie fodder and re-envisage it through a more wide scale and spaced out recording method while keeping it generally engaging. You’ve no doubt heard ‘Go Outside’ from that album too. The almost purely vocal performance that seemed to be promoting every TV, camera and car in 2011. It was a solid foundation and one they should be able to build upon as their sound can still be pushed and developed in a few areas for sure. It will be hard to whip up interest in the future if they have an album that falls down from their first.

‘High Road’ was the first single to come from the album in September. There seems to be a greater sense of rhythm with the song at first and perhaps more focus on the instrumentals than on the vocals and the result is a less Indie and pop leaning sound to a more Shoe-gaze and Dream-pop sort of sound but only in a subtle manner. Madeline’s vocals also seem to have developed and matured well too, with a less naïve sounding vocal but one that remains light and wistful already without the washed out effects on her voice. This runs along with Brian’s deeper backing vocal which even gives the vocal on it’s own a sense of depth. The synths are more washed out as well while the bass is more isolated and creates more of a groove which along with the percussion; gives the song added ballast and a greater depth while still remaining light and echoed. The guitar plugs the melody much more too and their added experience really shows with this song with the intertwining elements and changes in shift and tone linked together well. ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ opens with a little more gritty, reverbing guitar with simple percussion and a rising and tumbling bass line underneath it. The synths give pointers to the melody in its drowned out and whirring fashion. The song progression takes a turn when Madeline’s vocals begin. It ushers in rhythm and more obvious hooks while she really belts out the lyrics at the end of the chorus, She has her vocals recorded with a less obvious and short lived echo that takes effect mid-note. This contrasts well with the lower chords of the piano and the general arrangement of all these various elements is utilised effectively. It is far less spaced out and much more blockier in sound but within it the various elements blend in or work with each other. Another song to demonstrate their growing recording techniques as well as their ability in terms of playing too.

‘I Know’ gives much focus to melody and harmony yet channelled through reverb and washed out vocals. The light delicate reverb of the main riff is met with a soft and whirring synth. None of the sounds are captured and they all dissolve into each other for a considered and very atmospheric opening to the album. ‘Always Forever’ utilises the bass line as the foundation for which everything stems from. Those whirring synths and melodic lead guitar riffs are isolated from Madeline’s very high toned and naïve vocal that intertwine with the backing vocals only. A real sugar coated piece of Dreamscape pop. ‘No Hope’ continues with the echoed and soft reverb of the synths and percussion. It really kicks up with a rhythm with the shift in percussion and inclusion of vague bass line that simply ties all the floating and wistful elements down. The vocals are again very refined and consistent at a high pitch but remains tuneful and harmonious too. The opposite is true with the outro and demonstrates the limits she’s pushing her voice to successfully. As well as this, there is such a great focus and consideration of production methods and its clear to see with their soundscape and tone progressions. A certain development and blossoming from their debut.

Cults – Static = 8/10

Image from www.ukmix.org

Single Review – Cults – High Road

Cults are Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion and hail from Manhattan, New York. Their debut in 2011; around a year after forming went down pretty well and Cults the album was a very competent and capable debut. Their upcoming album will go by the name of Static and one of the first tracks off this album is ‘High Road’. With it there seems to be a greater sense of rhythm at first and perhaps more focus on the instrumentals than on the vocals and the result is a less Indie and pop leaning sound to a more shoegaze and Dream-pop sort of sound but only slightly. Madeline’s vocals also seem to have developed and matured well too with a less naïve sounding vocal but one that remains light and wistful. The synths are more washed out, the bass more isolated and creating more of a groove and the guitars are more melodic. All in all they’ve done a solid job here but must make sure the album does have different sounds and approaches on it.


Image from www.tucsonweekly.com