Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alcest- Écailles de Lune (2010)

Écailles de Lune is a dramatic and dynamic album that integrates music from a wide variety of genres into an original, cohesive aesthetic. The album fuses sounds from genres such as shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins), post rock (Mono, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and black metal (In the Woods, early Ulver). As diverse as these genres are, they all share a deep, reflective sensibility that lends to fluid blending. The culminating sound is very reflective—the soundtrack to the emergence of long lost memories and imaginings. Layers of regret and nostalgia clash with the sharper emotions of the present (i.e. hope, strength, and sorrow). The production creates a wide, hollow space where past and present emotions clash off each other like tides pulling in and out of a cove.  

Singer/ songwriter Neige preforms excellent vocals throughout. The clean vocals are soulful and choir-like- imagine blending the vocals from Sigur Ros and Ulver’s Bergtatt. The growled vocals are high-pitched and sharp, like those on early In the Woods records. However, the depth of the production softens their edge, making them more suitable for such a reflective work. The riffs are mostly a hybrid of shoegaze and post-rock. The best riffs are big, full and monumental, reaching cathartic peaks. There are also a number of black metal riffs with a post rock edge. For example, the final riff of the first track is a classic black metal riff, yet the melody loops and swirls in a way that in more reminiscent of Godspeed than any black metal band.

The strength of the album is the first three tracks. These songs travel through mazes of mood and melody. There is little repetition, as the music moves steadily in one direction and then another. Nonetheless, these songs don’t feel disjointed, but rather sound fully thought out. The highlight is part 2 of the title track. The song travels through sweeping, epic black metal, soft, somber clean passages and a powerful post-rock climax. It also contains Neige’s best vocal performance of the album. However, the second half of the album is a bit of a step down. The final two tracks lack the dynamics of the others- in part because the black metal dimension is removed and it part because the pace is slowed. The consequence is songs that flounder, sticking with tunes for too long and at times bordering on trite.

In spite of two weaker tracks, the first three tracks show Alcest to be an original and innovative band. Niege has the capacity to capture the power of memory, reflection, imagination and the other mysterious processes of the mind and manifest them in musical form. In sum, a strong release and a band with a lot of promise.

Overall: 8/10

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