CULTS – Static
aaamusic | On 24, Oct 2013
The sound of Static is not a sound you hear listening to your average radio station on a daily basis nor is it one that you can throw on with any sort of expectation. It requires an open-mindedness and a willingness to allow the music to transport you to another place or even time as only a cult might allow. Cults’ sound is ambiguous to say the least and brings together elements from numerous genres and styles; from indie-rock, with pop infused hooks and bluesy bass lines, combining the vibrancy of a 1960s ‘shoop shoop’ pop group and surfer sounds, wrapped in a dark gothic demeanour of a 1960/70s horror movie soundtrack. This is brought to life by the clever use of organs and a thermein and furthered by a lo-fi static haze that seems persistent throughout. Added to this are the sweet yet ghost like vocals of singer Madeline Follin which are simultaneously calming and unnerving.
Instrumentally, the album is incredibly widespread and diverse with numerous breaks from their static, highly produced ambiance evidenced with an acoustic break down in ‘We’ve Got It’, to the use of brass sounds in ‘So Far’ and strings in ‘Always Forever’, not to mention the sinister sounding low piano that closes the album obliterating any sign of a happy ending in ‘No Hope’. Lyrically, the message is of love and loss reflecting the breakup of band members Follin and Oblivion, which is most poignantly presented in ‘Always and Forever’; a charming and beautifully haunting love song which captures concisely a sense of longing and remembrance of a love that will be with them forever as Follin sings: “you and me always forever, we could stay alone together”. ‘Were Before’ is also a very charming and carefully constructed song in the form of a duet between Follin and oblivion recalling young love :”I wind up all the old clocks, so we can say we never skipped a beat”. Towards the end the vocals here appear highly assertive as Fallin repeats “you can’t fix that”.
The album, however, does not drown itself in self-pity. Shining through the heartbreak are moments of indie pop genius and catchy chorus hooks as in ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ – one of many highlights on the album – ‘We’ve Got It’, and ‘Keep your Head Up’, whose chorus brings to mind the experimental electro pop of MGMT and Animal Collective. The album closes as it began with ‘No Hope’ recalling thematic ideas from ‘I Know’ in a sort of recapitulation that has a certain funk of the late Amy Winehouse – ‘I know you’re mine, but still I die’.
Overall, Static is an incredibly complex and finely constructed album with detailed arrangements, tones and effects, utilising almost every sound imaginable, culminating in an incredible mass of sound that is delivered in a highly inventive way. It is delivered with a uniquely perfected and original sound with some of the most poignant lyrical writing to date.
Shane O Neill