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more quality from Neige - 75%

Zephirus, March 29th, 2010

I think like many I was excited about a new Alcest album, due to the strength of ‘Souvenirs…’ and of course Neiges skill when it comes to crafting songs. ‘Souvenirs’ and its brand of shoegaze/post BM was definitely an acquired taste. It may have seemed a little wishy washy for some, however I was intrigued and enjoyed the album for the most part.

‘Ecailles de Lune’ is easily on a par with the previous album and introduces some austerity that the other full length maybe lacked. The title track and album opener ‘Ecalliles de lune (part I)’ kickstarts this release in a style that will be familiar to most. Buzzing guitars strumming out unaggressive melodies, slow drumming easing the track along. Neige sings for the first few lines (you’ll find no screaming… yet), with a contained voice well suited to the music, it floats along in his native tongue. Things speed up momentarily before finding its way back to dreamy picked lines, thick with reverb. Neige always seems to create a little riff or chord movement that just sticks out, even if for a second, but it will highlight the song. You’ll find them throughout this release. In contrast Part II commences with a blast beat and black metal screams. It doesn’t last long though before settling back to gliding oohs and aahs.

If you couldn’t wait and bought the Alcest / Les Discrets split released just before this you’ll have heard ‘Percees de Lumiere’. Maybe a little disappointing as it makes the album shorter, in essence, but this is a great track and gives the album extra diversity. It could easily have been on the Amesoeurs album (another development of Neige) as it’s more of a straight forward BM track with some rasping tremolo guitar and Neiges fantastic shrill screams. Definitely one of the best Black Metal vocals around and how he manages it I’ll never know. The drums, while not technical, are interesting and well handled with the bass lines standing out too. Next ‘Abysses’ serves as a forgettable interlude and ‘Solar Song’ is similarly unremarkable.

It doesn’t take long then to get to the final and most poignant track ‘Sur l’ocean couleur de fer’. Translated it means ‘On the iron coloured Ocean’ with the lyrics being from a poem of the same name by 19th century bard Paul-Jean Toulet (A few other bands have a tradition of doing this, a nice little touch I always liked). I often listen to a lot of my music at night in bed. It’s perfect for absorbing songs uninterrupted, unfortunately it’s also easy to drift off too. Anyway I put this album on a few times and this track stirred me with its haunting arpeggio and soft vocal. For me it evoked memories and emotions and almost had me in tears. It’s heartbreaking music but beautiful and uplifting too if you have a tendency towards it. Here Neige shows he can sing cleanly just as well as he can scream.

I don’t think this is an album for many repeat listens in a single week, it needs a certain mood and could leave you feeling a little underwhelmed if listened to too much. However, it’s definitely a solid album and just as good, if not better, than its predecessor. The band are tight, it’s well produced and varied. If you weren’t quite sure about the last album or shoegaze BM in general maybe better to avoid this, otherwise a good buy.