Written by: MN on 28/01/2015 14:00:12

It was a stroke of pure luck that I initially came across this wonderful project named Alcest. Having no prior knowledge of this band, it took some serious convincing from a friend to see them live last winter, exactly a year ago. This was the start of an infatuation on my part, primarily sprouted by their beautiful performance, but also Alcest's newest release "Shelter", which served as a soundtrack to the entrance of spring. Initially a black metal trio anchored by mastermind Neige, Alcest has changed monumentally since the low quality demos of the early 2000's.

Their releases have adopted an athmospherical nature where elements of post-rock and shoegaze feature more prominently than anything else. Though earlier records like "Ecailles De Lune" can be described as "blackgaze", as they had the trademark black metal shriek feature consistently. With "Shelter", however, Alcest have completely abandoned any notion of black metal in their composition. This was obviously deemed to spark acrimonious debate and thereby the loss of some conservative fans. To my surprise, most critical takes, even from the most genre-specific medias, have agreed upon the undeniable success of Alcest moving in this more poppy shoegaze direction. This reviewer couldn't possibly agree more. Whilst my teeth usually run in water at the thought of athmospheric black metal, this 90's indie inspired, dreamy pop has turned out to be just my cup of tea. The elements of post-rock a long the lines of Explosions In The Sky and This Will Destroy You play perfectly in unison with Neige's soothing French vocals.

"Shelter" is produced by Birgir Jón Birgisson, the man behind most Sigur Rós productions. This influence is very obvious upon listening to the record, the dreamy athmosphere often conjured up by Jónsi is not unlike what Neige is aiming for, though in the language of French. As the name implies "Shelter" is a concept album relating to the namesake concept of finding sanctuary and safety in a certain location, place or mindset. In the case of Neige, he found his inspiration to be the vast oceans and the seaside, an inspiration that can be clearly heard throughout the record as the soaring sweeps of high pitched guitars and reverb mimics that of an endless ocean with constant movement.

Opener "Wings" is the moodsetter, whilst "Opale" is an uplifting "indie" inspired track with a very catchy melodic phrase. The follow up track "Le Nuit Marche Avec Moi" seems to add a sense of melancholia to the mood, not unlike what God Is An Astronaut often accomplish. "Voix Sereines" is one of the best songs on the record. It is a reflective song with great development and sincerity. Another grand highlight is "Shelter", an envigorating track that inspires moods of hope and rebirth. The monumental "Délivrance" is the most complex and cathartic track on the record, a homage to Neige's astounding musical background.

It has been said that Neige's inspiration comes from a fantasy land that he conjured up in his childhood, a far off country, known by Neige as "fairy land". It is the inspiration of these memories that guides the listener into creating one's own fantasy-fuelled imagery. I think the concept of "Shelter" is perfectly captured throughout the 9 tracks found on this record. It is particularly appealing that a band that sings in French still manages to capture such a large audience, but whether they will reach stardom, time will tell. All in all, it is definitely one of the best records of 2014.

Download: Shelter, Délivrance, Away
For The Fans Of: Moonlit Sailor, Jónsi, Collapse Under The Empire

Release date 17.01.2014
Prophecy Productions

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