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Good, But Not Great. - 85%

Perplexed_Sjel, August 7th, 2010

Although Lantlôs have been around since 2005, their successful debut wasn’t released until 2008, a year which saw their reputation propel to a global level. Destined for future success, Herbst made a shrewd move in acquiring the services of the multi-talented Neige, most notably of Amesoeurs and Alcest. His reputation alone was bound to further instil Lantlôs as a household name in the metal industry as he has quite the following on the underground. There are those of the opinion that Neige is too involved in the scene these days, partaking in one too many projects and there are those who think everything he touches turns to gold. I’m going to sit on the fence on this issue as I happen to enjoy the majority of what Neige produces, to some extent at least.

However, his work for his primary project - that being Alcest - has seemingly suffered at the hands of his willingness to work with others. His latest exploits in ‘Écailles de lune’ saw a notable step-down in quality from the debut full-length, ‘Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde’. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to thinking that his exploits with other projects are affecting his main project. Of course, that isn’t to say a musician, especially one as talented as Neige, cannot divide his time between bands and produce several different albums under several different monikers but, it would seem to me at least, that Neige has been overexerting himself to an extent and because of this his work with Alcest has suffered.

Alcest, like Lantlôs, are signed to Prophecy Productions and have a five album deal, so there is plenty of time to set the record straight and recapture the glory of the debut, but given how quickly he seems to be willing to work, perhaps the quality of his services will see further depletions in the future? For example, according to Lantlôs themselves, the third album has already been written and recorded, a mere few months after the release of the much-loved sophomore. Given my experience with fast producing musicians, I’m somewhat sceptical in regards to the quality of the forthcoming record. Anticipation levels deteriorate as a result and anxiety replaces uncontrollable excitement which may affect my overall opinion of a piece of work when the finished product is unleashed upon the public.

‘.Neon’, the newest Lantlôs effort, definitely has that Neige touch to it and therefore will receive the stamp of approval by the majority of his followers regardless of content. As age creeps up on me, as does cynicism. Lantlôs have been completely transformed from the sound produced on the marvellous self-titled debut, despite the fact that Herbst still appears to have the majority of the creative control over the band. Neige has definitely left his mark upon this album as it has that mid-to-late Alcest era feel to it. Imagine the two Alcest full-lengths mixed in with a cleaner sounding ‘Le Secret’ EP and a touch of Amesoeurs thrown in for good measure and then you’ve got ‘.Neon’. The cleaner sections to the album, as shown on songs like the superb ‘Coma’, show a distinctive Amesoeurs feel to them. There is a possibility that influences from post-punk has been thrown into the mix alongside the post-rock influence of those shimmering soundscapes.

The increased presence of the bass is the only reason I think this as it was pretty much shunned from existence on the first album as the razor sharp guitars stole the limelight. ‘Minumensch’ is a good example of how the bass operates within this album. It provides a much jazzier feel to this album than it did the last, adding a certain amount of variety which perhaps wasn’t felt as much on the previous album. With Neige helping out on vocals, perhaps Herbst has looked to accommodate his particular styles for Alcest and Amesoeurs by incorporating jazzier, more progressive tinted music? It’s a possibility. Herbst has loosened the shackles which kept the self-titled debut on a leash, restricting it from unleashing its true creativity. The debut felt much dirtier, perhaps sharper in sound. Some of the atmospherics produce a lulling sound here as this album explores much softer soundscapes on a number of occasions. There are, of course, faster sections, with the bass and drums working particularly well on songs like ‘Neige de Mars’.

This sophomore is a largely clean affair and even when the distortion comes into play, the soundscapes don’t have that same dreamy haze to it that they did on the debut, as songs like ‘These Nights Were Ours’ indicate. There is a shoegazing feel to the guitars on songs like this, but the distortion isn’t as powerful as it was on the debut because there are other elements besides it to make the album feel more dynamic and less dependent on the distortion to carry the melodies. Seeing as Alcest is the sole project of Neige, a deterioration in quality, despite the fact that Lantlôs have so drastically changed, is not at all a possibility given that Lantlôs have Herbst to steady the ship as the main creative source. Herbst is the instrumentalist for this album and thankfully so.

I do appreciate Neige’s talents when it comes to song writing and craftsmanship, but Lantlôs is a Herbst project and I don’t want Neige to overtake it musically. The guitars for this album, although largely accommodating to a new and much more progressive sound, are still somewhat similar to how they functioned on the debut. ‘Neige de Mars’, for example, is a fast, cutthroat song, unlike most of the others, although they too do flick between slow, mid and fast tempos. This is shown delightfully well on ‘Pulse/Surreal’, a song which had been publicly released by the band some time before the actual release of the album. This song features Neige singing cleanly and a guitar backbone which is much alike the material on the debut, although slowed down. Neige’s vocals are fantastic throughout, particularly his cleanly sung vocals which adds to the sense of growing dynamism on the album, especially when his clean vocals are layered over the top of his powerful growls, as they are on ‘Pulse/Surreal’. It’s difficult to compare ‘.Neon’ to the self-titled debut because they’re so vastly different but I just feel that this sound is, as of yet, a little too underdeveloped. The next album will indicate whether or not these two can have a lasting relationship within the music industry. Solid, but requires work.