ALCEST: “Les Chants de l’Aurore” Trans Yellow LP

ALCEST: “Les Chants de l’Aurore” Trans Yellow LP

£25.50

ALCEST: “Les Chants de l’Aurore” Trans Yellow LP. Released 21st June 2024

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ALCEST: “Les Chants de l’Aurore” Trans Yellow LP. Released 21st June 2024

“The place where I’m taking my inspiration from is a place of pure harmony and light. I’m just like everyone else – I’m very anxious, I have my issues and demons, but there is a place inside me which is much more in peace and harmony, so I took inspiration from this part of myself, rather than the dark part.”

As the world we live in grows darker and more bewildering with every passing day, the transformative power of music has never been more vital. Formed in the small French town of Bagnols-sur-Cèze at the dawn of the century, underground icons Alcest have always been clear about their desire to transport listeners to somewhere different, somewhere better. Led by founder and multi-instrumentalist Neige, the French artists have been one of the most consistently radical voices in all of heavy music, with a sound that eschews metal’s often myopic devotion to casting shadows, in favour of a sublime blend of darkness and blinding bright light.

The release of Alcest’s debut album Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde in 2007 blazed a unique trail through the underground metal world, eliciting high praise and feverish condemnation in equal amounts. Ostensibly a black metal project, Neige’s crew gifted an entirely new perspective to the black metal scene: wherein beauty, fragility, melody and positive vibrations co-exist with the fast, furious aesthetic of true extreme metal. Almost instantaneously influential, Alcest were able to steadily establish themselves as a unique force, both with a series of acclaimed albums and a sturdy reputation as a transcendent live act.

From the enlightened primitivism of 2010’s Écailles de Lune, and the definitive, holistic squall of Les Voyages De L’Âme (2012), to the magical, post-rock splendour of Shelter (2014) and the dark, dynamic Kodama (2016), Neige’s vision has been presented in the most vibrant and revelatory colours. Meanwhile, the legions of like-minded “blackgaze” bands that have followed in Alcest’s wake speak volumes about the Frenchmen’s profound and enduring influence.

Released in October 2019, Alcest’s sixth studio album marked another grand milestone in their story. Their first record for Nuclear Blast Records, Spiritual Instinct deftly sustained the conceptual and musical preoccupations of past achievements, while taking Neige and long-time drummer Winterhalter into new sonic realms, both grittier and more nuanced than ever before. Inevitably, plans to tour their new music were eventually scuppered by the global pandemic that broke out early in 2020. But Alcest’s creative journey continued regardless, and the results can be heard on the band’s latest album, Les Chants de L’Aurore.

Having redirected his artistic energies, Neige began work on the follow-up to Spiritual Instinct, newly inspired by the experiential essence that first led him to his band’s ground-breaking musical life. As with Souvenirs d’un Autre Mode, Les Chants de L’Aurore draws inspiration from the spiritual childhood experiences that have shaped Neige, both as a musician and a human being. A liberated nosedive into the very notion of consciousness and the layered mists of reality, the seventh Alcest album amounts to a euphoric homecoming.

Recorded by Neige and Winterhalter themselves, with a little help from talented friends, Les Chants de L’Aurore pulls off the neat trick of sounding both huge and intimate. From the opening Komorebi onwards, Alcest sound reborn and revitalised, as their most cherished trademarks are reinvented for a new era, and with new depths and sophistication on display.

A band known for their empathetic ethos, Alcest have never sounded more blissful than they do on Les Chants de L’Aurore. As Neige explains, new songs like recent single L’Envol and the epic L’Enfant de la Lune aim to counteract the negativity and darkness that surrounds us in the so-called real world, with hazily expressed visions of a different place and time. After dealing with the abstract horrors of mortal existence on previous records, Neige has returned to the comforting cocoon of his spirituality, and with the specific intention of spreading some love and positivity.

Five years after their last album, Alcest have reconvened with a refreshed perspective on their epoch-altering musical endeavours. Les Chants de L’Aurore arrives at a tumultuous point in human history, laden with gentle charm and ferocious conviction, and doggedly determined to push Neige’s musical identity ever further into an expansive future. More importantly, perhaps, Les Chants de L’Aurore gives Neige a fresh opportunity to connect with his adoring fan base, armed with some of the most beautiful and mesmerising music that he has ever written.

“We always put all of our heart and soul into making a new record, but when it is released, it doesn’t belong to us anymore,” Neige shrugs. “People will decide if they like it or not, and that’s it, but I really love this album and I have a very special attachment to it. I’m never going to say ‘It’s the best fucking thing!’ [Laughs] That’s not our style, you know? But from the perspective of the latest feedback and the excitement people have expressed, I think it’s going to be great. We’ve got a 35-show tour booked for the end of the year, and we’ll play in some really nice venues, like the Olympia in Paris, the most iconic venue in Paris. Even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones played there! I’m so excited and honoured to play there. Then we will do the States and Asia next year, I hope. We don’t release albums very often, and this one took five years, so I think we’re going to tour a lot over the next three years.”

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