Alcest is a french Shoegaze band. Well, that’s what they want you to believe. Who’s “they”? Lazy writers, basically. I actually disagree with this statement. Sure, they’ve been a big influence on Deafheaven. Sunbather was a beautiful mix of jagged black metal and dreamy shoegaze soundscapes, but that doesn’t mean Alcest are a shoegaze band. One listen to their newest album Shelter and it’s clear that Alcest mastermind Neige is doing something far more grand than anything those mopey shoegaze folks ever did.
Listening to “Opale”, the second song on the excellent Shelter, you get that big, swelling feeling in the chest. Triumphant, grand, emotional, and overall uplifting. This is the kind of song Chris Martin would love to open an album with; or maybe something to play during Olympic spots on NBC. Either way, it’s a beautiful track that may be dipping its toes in those shoegaze waters, but is firmly planted in lighter, happier terrain. Alcest is more Sigur Ros than My Bloody Valentine. “La nuit marche avec moi” gets a bit darker. The song has a post-rock sound to it, reminiscent of Mogwai in atmospheric mode. “Voix Sereines” is a slow burner, with the kind of chord changes and sweeping, engulfing reverb Explosions in the Sky use to swallow you whole. The guitars are light and dreamy, while the drums are subtle yet carry you along. This song does evoke a bit of the shoegaze/dream pop feel, albeit more along the lines of Whirr, especially around the four minute mark when the guitars explode into a wall of buzzing fuzz. Epic. And title track “Shelter” brings to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain in full-on pop mode. This track sounds like what would’ve transpired had the Reid brothers recorded A Rush of Blood to the Head instead of those Coldplays. Open skies, daydreaming in a field, longing for a love lost…you get the picture. The ten minute sprawl of ” Délivrance” is truly inspiring. It’s dark, contemplative, and carries you along through an aural journey. It’s a song that begins almost like a lament, but builds into something larger and inspiring even. There’s a point where the song shifts from quiet melancholy to something bigger, tougher. A touch of grand metal shows through. It’s that moment where the clouds open and those hidden rays of light shine through. There’s such an amazing build in this song that you barely notice when it begins to wind down. Neige creates cinematic sound and heart-breaking emotion like nobody’s business.
To call Alcest ‘shoegaze’ is a bit lazy, but accurate nonetheless. Shelter is the culmination of years creating, crafting, and refining ones sound. Neige employs many styles to make his own special brand of musical journeys. It’s a grand journey to take.
7.8 out of 10