Review Summary: Alcest’s sixth installment relaxes the band’s soundscape.
Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct
is a step back. For most fans of Alcest’s music, there’s a sense of longingness, balanced by light and the dark, but for all the hype for the masterminds who brought us the dark and enthralling Kodama
, or the mesmerising Les Voyages De L' me
, Alcest has released an album that rehashes the band’s penchant for shoegaze melody and occasional flashes of black metal furor while simultaneously simplifying their landscape into a pleasant, but entirely forgettable affair. Alcest may have released an album that relies on a contextual story, built on riffs and simple melodies, but it fails to shine beyond a few casual listens.
I want to be clear. Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct
isn’t offensively bad. Rather it’s offensive in its mediocrity; it doesn’t meet the expectation of quality found in all
of the albums that came before it. Whether it be the cleaner aesthetic of Shelter
, or the reawakened blackgaze tendencies found in Kodama
, Alcest’s 2019 effort just doesn’t achieve the same standards. On a first listen, “Les Jardins de Minuit” is unmistakably Alcest; the band’s ability to blend lush melodies and brooding palpable atmosphere is still here. But for all the usual Alcest-y tendencies, I can’t help but shake the feeling that Spiritual Instinct
is running on a fully-fledged autopilot. Moments of introspection meet the same few vocal melody lines and get all too lost in similar guitar refrains. Alcest continue on this trajectory of washed soundscapes, without the build that would normally lift the album’s tracks. It’s these moments that complete the undermine the crescendos. “Protection” (much like the rest of the record) showcases the shifting tones of purple and grey that bleed into blacks and browns and are caught up in waves of whimsical riffs and overly simplistic percussive patterns. It’s this ‘whimsical’ and introspective feeling that rules how this album is perceived. Alcest’s music has lost some of its majesty, it’s luster, and in turn comes off cold and unmoving, frigid in its design. Alcest’s art washes together without definition of line or character.
is more of a disappointment based completely off where Alcest left their fans after the acclaimed Kodama
, which leaves a feeling of elation due to its overall dynamic display and atmospheric captivation, but it’s the album’s sheer lack of replay value and overall ability simply bleeds one track into another. Alcest’s 2019 piece lacks the variance and superb crescendos found in the pieces mentioned above. Singularily, most of these tracks are gorgeous displays of modern blackgaze (albeit simple) but together they compound into one. On occasion, the sense of autopilot is broken by Neige’s ferocious, near black metal screams or the lustful cleans that could easily be replaced by any aspect from any other track. When Neige’s melodies can be absently replaced with “la-la-la’s” there’s something to be said about the album’s lack of memorable parts. Even the album’s crystalline production partly prevents the listeners’ engagement; it’s less intimate and, in places, creates an atmosphere that feels forced and disingenuous.
The album’s second half suffers from some of the same issues found in the rest of the album, but surprisingly is made up of Spiritual Instinct
’s stronger, albeit slightly off-kilter compositions. “L’Île des Morts” is a sampling of everything the Alcest moniker has offered throughout its career, but is offset by “Le Miroir”’s more graceful, soft dream pop. It’s subtle combinations like this that prevent Alcest’s sixth album from being completely uninspiring, clinging onto those elements which transfixed fans into a world of gazing glee. The album’s title track in particular is worth accolades, but is hampered by everything that came before it.
In regards to Alcest’s sixth studio outing as a whole, it’s packed with riffs, but lacks basic diversity and variance. Spiritual Instinct
is too singular in its dynamics. It’s because of this that the repetition of Alcest’s signature nuance bleeds too
well together preventing a memorable listen past first impression enjoyment. Spiritual Instinct
isn’t a bad record by any means, but it’s definitely not a defining piece for a band that should be capitalising on the creativity found on previous albums.