Review Summary: Écailles de Lune sees Alcest improve in all the right ways.
Alcest is far from inaccessible. Really, how could records as gorgeous as Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
and Écailles de Lune
be anything but? Yet in spite of this, I've had trouble wrapping my mind around both albums. I could probably get away with attributing my difficulty with 2007's Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
to a slight aversion to Alcest's shoegaze inclinations at the time, but there's no excuses now. I love this stuff.
Alcest's sound isn't what made Écailles de Lune
difficult; rather, the record opens on a warm, uplifting note which spans the majority for the forty minute record. However, the complexity of the (two-part) title track, which effectively functions as the first half of the album, gives it a depth that is hard to properly appreciate during the first few listens. It's testament to how Alcest, one of multi-instrumentalist Neige's several projects, has matured over the last three years. Where Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
relied on somewhat linear shoegaze, "Écailles de Lune
parts I and II" capture a similar atmosphere, while incorporating a variety of different sections and styles at the same time. Although the transition between breezy guitars and heavier, metal parts (and back and forth) sounds clunky and drawn out at first, with repeated listening everything falls into place.
For whatever reason, with "Percées de Lumière" the record becomes a lot easier to listen to. Neige certainly doesn't scale back any of the metal influences; "Percées de Lumière" features some of the most intense guitar work available on Écailles de Lune
, accentuated perfectly by Neige's high pitched shrieks. "Solar Song" is by far the most accessible song Écailles de Lune
has to offer; Neige drops all semblance of black metal in favour of full-on shoegaze with some of the year's coolest guitar textures. Although it lacks the multi-layered complexity of the title track, which is sure to be a favourite among fans, "Solar Song" better sums up the album's soothing disposition. Really, it isn't only Écailles de Lune
's best song; it's by far the finest piece of music Neige has released under the Alcest moniker.
The title track comes close though. But again, it's testament to how much Alcest has improved between Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
and Écailles de Lune
. Neige's song writing this time around is much more adept and varied; as result, the record is much more engaging. Mind you, "Solar Song" aside, the album doesn't sink in immediately, but it's a definite grower. And when it does, it's fantastic.