As the leaves and rain start to fall, less people are outside, and the general mood shifts, you know that summer in Seattle is definitely over. What better way to go celebrate/sulk then to go see Anathema on their first US tour? Well, that’s what I did, and while they were very good, the band that really impressed me was Alcest (France). I had seen the name many places, but never found the time to check it out. So after their set, I picked up a copy of their latest album “Les Voyages De L’Âme” (The Journeys of the Soul). Good decision for sure.
The premise behind the band is that Alcest is music from/inspired by another world that mainman Neige visited as a child. The official Alcest describes as a place beyond our five senses. Where all aspects of nature emit a pearly light, unearthly music flows through the air, and the inhabitants are cosmic beings of light. I suggest reading the official description for yourself at www.alcest-music.com. It’s much better than I can paraphrase.
The music is a mix between ethereal melodic clean guitar parts, mellow clean vocals, juxtaposed with metal sections. The guitar tones on this album are fantastic, and I admire the quality of recording they captured. The clean passages are simply beautiful, and almost have a crystalline sound to them. The distorted tones are very rich and full, and the chord variations played throughout the album are very clear (hooray for minimal power chords!). The drums are very clear and organic sounding, great to hear in the age of robot drumming. The vocals lay nicely in the mix, and don’t overpower everything, just kind of float along with the music. There are also a few discrete synth parts on the album that are very effective as well. The music as a whole sounds very warm and pleasing to the ears.
The lyrics are all in French, which is a lovely language that suits the music very well. I translated the lyrics using my browser. From what seemed accurate, the lyrics are very poetic and positive, speaking of a greater connection with the cosmos, nature, and what lies beyond the world we live in. Again, I highly suggest doing this for yourself as I don’t want to diminish their meaning by paraphrasing.
This is a very dense and epic album that needs to be listened to in its entirety several times before one can grasp the whole concept. Many layers will reveal themselves to you with each listen. The dynamic range is massive, yet everything flows together wonderfully, like a celestial river flowing through the universe. The aural journey from the mysterious sounding opening guitars on “Autre Temps” all the way to the blast beat climax in “Faiseurs De Mondes” is something that must be listened to in order to experience the full dynamic range of the album. Once you “see” the whole tapestry, its magic.
Neige has created music that truly speaks from the heart. It emits harmonious frequencies that can be felt, and can open your mind to the possibility that things exist beyond the small spectrum of visible that that we humans decode. I think he has really nailed the message and sound he wants to portray.
Many would probably scoff at the idea that someone could believe things outside our senses exist, and that esoteric experiences are nothing more than tricks of the brain. Keep in mind, these are the same people that once would have believed the Earth is flat, or that its the center of the universe. Alcest is music that truly embodies what lies beyond what our eyes perceive, and contemplating these things is absolutely essential in the current materialistic, soulless and destructive world.
Album: Les Voyages De L’Âme
Released: January 6th, 2012
Label: Prophecy Productions
Score: 8/9 Hammers