Now, I'm not expecting Alcest
to carry on doing the same thing they've been doing in the past, I greatly enjoyed their dreamy fusion of shoegaze and post rock with trace elements of black metal, I found them enticing and emotional. By no means am I disgruntled by their change in style, in fact it was pretty damn predictable if you ask me, with the post rock elements becoming a much higher presence on Les voyages de l'âme than they were in the past. In fact, following the release of Shelter
I was quite excited, each album Alcest
has released has marked changes from the one that came before and I was interested to see what decision they would be heading in next. Yet whilst I admit that the new found ethereal post-rock style is a natural progression, I will admit that I don't feel that Alcest
handled it in the right way.
The problem with Shelter
is that it seems exclusively preoccupied with sounding as pretty and ethereal as humanly possible, and whilst this can work from time to time, I've always felt that Alcest
had that harsher edge about them that made them stand out and elevate the quality of the music. I felt that the shoegaze and post rock elements worked incredibly well when mixed with the influence of black metal, yet with the metal elements all but gone I can't help but feel that there's something missing.
The music of Shelter
is based around the repetition of a few major chord riffs played on reverb laden guitars whilst Neige's ethereal singing voice floats over the instrumental front. The post rock elements focus on the exploration of a single musical idea not dissimilar to the Icelandic post rock band Sigur Ros. Ambient noodling is perhaps a good way to describe this way of song writing, as most of the songs don't follow a set structure, there's no movement from A to B, but instead each song tries to expand on the idea that it has laid down. This wouldn't be a problem if the ideas that Alcest
were presenting proved interesting enough to be explored on their own, but with the removal of the metal elements it seems that Alcest
have lost their creative edge. Now don't get me wrong, Shelter
is a very pretty album and I really feel Neige has finally recreated his view of his fairyland and I commend him for that, but at times the atmosphere often becomes bland and stale. The ecstatic atmosphere is entertaining for a while but gradually but surely it becomes to lose some of its luster, it's a case of been here, done that. To sum it up simply, Shelter
is a one trick pony, with much of the music solely focused on the exploration of a few ethereal melodies, there's a gaping whole where song writing is concerned. Songs lack structure, and therefore they lack flow. The music is decent enough on its own right but it feels directionless and oddly detached, I feel I can't make a connection to the music because the nature of the songs forbids me from doing so. Atmospheric music requires the listener to be engaged and thus aspects of song writing get pushed to the forefront, therefore it reflects badly on the behalf of Alcest
that they have forgone that element.
the glaring negatives there's still a fair amount to enjoy about Shelter
. It is undoubtedly very bright and very ethereal and at times the atmosphere really can shine through. Neige's clean voice is as good as ever and it works well when mixed with the lighter direction of Shelter
. The melodies themselves, despite being fairly unoriginal are quite good in recreating the atmosphere of Neige's fairyland. It suitably creates a very childlike and free spirited atmosphere, and whilst I do love the dark side of music, I find this unprecedentedly happy take on the music of Alcest
quite evocative at times. Of course the lack of direction is a hindrance, but I don't think that Shelter
was meant to have a direction. Its structured fairly close to ambient music in how songs tend to meander about, lacking any sense of purpose other than to entice the listener by their atmospheres. Admittedly I've never been huge on ambient music, I like the odd band (Stars of the Lid anyone?) but it takes a lot on my part to envision a world where music like this isn't entirely pointless. After all if I wanted to listen to some atmospheric and emotive music I'd listen to Agalloch
, you know something that is atmospheric and emotive, and whilst my comparisons to ambient may seem a little far fetched on first glance I strongly stand by that statement. Once
again I have to compare this album to Sigur Ros as the ambient post rock style is very similar to said band, and whilst I don't find it as hypnotic as the illustrious Icelandic band, Alcest
do a pretty good even if flawed job of creating an ambient post rock album.
Overall if you like your music to the point and relatively straight forward, you will not like this album. There's a lot of directionless meandering that really prevent the songs from going anywhere and whilst the pretty atmosphere is a plus, Alcest
have a long way to go as song writers before they're able to masterfully craft music of this caliber. Whilst an interesting change of direction, the lack of any real song writing prevents this from receiving only a couple of listens.