Friday, July 29, 2011

Alcest - Le Secret (2011)


The quiet, clean guitars tones that open "Le Secret" are soothing, leading to the sizzling of cymbals and the addition of the kick/snare drumming. The bassline is not overstated, yet powerful all the same. This is progressive rock, played beautifully, in the same realm as Porcupine Tree. But the aural assault is soon to follow, with guitars ringing out distorted tones, and the light tapping of drums building to a thunder. Soft vocals enter nearly five minutes into the song, yet keeping the same rapid fire drumming that has come to be synonymous with black metal.

You may feel as though you have spaced out, because time is simply not important anymore. Everything flows together perfectly, and you may find yourself lost in the haze. The instrumentation is fragile, with each pillar standing, delicately, on it's own. But the strength of all these pieces together is unreal at times, with the thumping of kick drums propping up a melody, or a high energy bass line forming the glue between kick and snare. An interlude of almost punk fervor comes dashing to an end with an acoustic tinged portion. The full band sound reenters, but with little more than a whisper. The gasp of vocals peeks through, but only to guide the song to an end.

The second track, "Elevation" is aptly named and well performed. The heavenly sound of keys may bring a tear to your eye, as the darkened clouds part and expose a shining sun. This passage would be as at home in a church as it would in a garage studio. But with the greatest beauty, comes the strongest crash. With the ringing of a cymbal, the high speed drumming begins, complimented by distorted, yet clear, guitar chords. The sparkling low end of the bass is enough to tie it all together. The screeching, hoarse vocals enter, in such a sharp contrast to the music being performed. They scream forward, over top of the building energy. As the distortion fades, clean guitars return. But not for long.

The effects build, the thump of a kick drum sends your woofers in motion, a some fancy string work leads you into a post-metal blitz. To say the music is "atmospheric" does not to it justice. It surrounds you. The layers and layers of distortion and low end rumbling form a wall around your head. Even as the harsh vocals take command again, you can't help but feel relaxed. The crashing of cymbals only strengthens the emotions that will run through you. It all fades away, and those eerie keyboard tones return, laying you down amongst the clouds. And as quickly as it began, it all fades away.

This re-imagining of the original work was well executed, and much needed. Included on this re-release are the original versions, recorded in 2005. Contrary to the early recordings, these have a production value that allows us to see the vision. I find it hard to describe the imagery created. In fact, I struggled to stay alert during this album, choosing, rather, to slip into a state of consciousness where only the music existed. The first time you hit play, don't read. Don't drive. Don't eat. Just Listen.


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