Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alcest's Shelter: background music, with occasional transcendence

Finally, Alcest have dropped all the trappings of metal to make that stripped back, shoegazy, dream-pop album it always seemed they were heading towards. Unfortunately, Shelter might be pretty, but it's pretty average.

By removing the blast beats, guitar FX and harsh whispers, Alcest have lost the counterpoint to their gentler passages. Granted, it's a trick they couldn't have pulled indefinitely and credit to them for wanting to evolve. But the overall effect is to make Shelter background music with occasional - too few - transcendental moments.

The gentler approach also has the result of pushing mainman Neige's ennervated choirboy voice centre stage. And that's asking a lot of it. What worked great texturally under walls of guitar in Ecailles de Lune two albums ago suddenly feels unequal to the task of carrying a quiet storm.

Neige has made it pretty clear in interviews - for now at least - that he doesn't want to return to metal. So perhaps we should see Shelter as part of an adaptive process, a transitional album while Alcest master new forms. Let's hope they keep the courage of their convictions, but also that they get as good as they used to be once again.

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