Alcest – Ecailles de Lune (2010)
The first thing you’ll notice about this album cover is how very French it is. There’s a mythical romanticism about it, as the flowing mermaid character observes her sleeping lover, though she seems to make no effort to wake him up. The artist Les Discrets, who designed it, has captured perfectly the mood and ambience of “Ecailles de Lune,” and you don’t necessarily need a lyric sheet and a French dictionary to appreciate it. It’s possible a native French speaker would get a different perspective on Alcest than I would, but being a francophone is definitely not a requirement to dive into “Ecailles de Lune.”
1. Ecailles de Lune, Part 1
2. Ecailles de Lune, Part 2
3. Percies De Luminiere
5. Solar Song
6. Sur L’Ocean Couleur De Fer
If the deep, underwater, melancholy atmosphere of the album art could be set to music, that is exactly what Alcest has created here. They start with a pair of ten-minute epics that epitomize their love of the dreampop/shoegaze genre (accounting for the somber, melodic lines) and traditional, screeching black metal (accounting for the periodic shifts into blast-beat overdrive). Continuing with the nautical theme here, the former can be compared to the shimmering, underwater gloom of the ocean floor, while the latter can represent rising to the surface to find yourself tossed and turned in an intense storm of waves.
The other songs in the more traditional 5-6 minute range have been dismissed by some as being “too pretty.” But those who choose to ignore the breezy, night-time shuffle of “Percies De Luminiere” or the bright bass line of “Solar Song” with its multilayered vocal harmonies, are really missing out.
At this point, you really wonder whether you’d be content if this album had no vocals at all–not because they’re poorly done or detract from the experience, but because the music just that imaginative. This is a sad-sounding ablum, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean that it lacks power, confidence, or immersive-ness.
Taking in Alcest’s efforts here, I’m honestly reminded of the landscape painters of France’s Impressionist and Romantic period. During their time there was war, chaos and upheaval of all kinds (including the Franco-Prussian War, a humiliating defeat if there ever was one). While the world collapsed around them, these artists were sitting out in countryside, painting pictures of flowers. Today, in a world no less chaotic than the one back then, we have Alcest…painting a soundscape of the moon.
Merci Alcest, for reminding us that metal can indeed be beautiful.
4 / 5
Written by Matt P