The stage set for the concert of Cigarettes After Sex last Friday, in Amsterdam’s Melkweg, looked like it was ready for a band to soundtrack a silent film. The minimalist scenario was composed only of a small drum kit, a keyboard, and a microphone. Just moments before the quartet emerged, a projector was turned on, and a big screen in the background started showing images of a building in a snowy, dark winter night.
The group came in, respectful and silent, and reached their instruments. Lighting on stage was so dim that their faces were barely visible. The Nouvelle Vague atmosphere of the performance fits perfectly the band’s ambient pop. They began with the beautiful “Sweet”: It’s so sweet, knowing that you love me / Though we don’t need to say it to each other, sweet. Frontman Greg González sings with a delicate voice. He sounds like a mom putting an unprotected child to sleep.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the band released their first full-length record earlier this year. “This is like the novel or feature-length version of Cigarettes. I wanted it to feel like a complete work, where some of the imagery repeats – like it’s all in the same world. It’s very much a fulfillment of the feelings in the short works”, explains González. The album kept the same vibe of the EP I (2012): hazy and romantic compositions, like a lethargic Beach House.
Contrarily to what you’d expect from an indie rock concert, it is the bass, not the electric guitar, the most important instrument accompanying the singer. Their sad songs have an incredibly slow pace, but once you get in the mood, it is an enjoyable trip. For one and a half hours, the audience at Melkweg was transported to a solemn state of mind: it was like a cult, and the preachers were on stage.