Review: Alcest - Le Secret (2011)


artist: Alcest
release: Le Secret
format: CD, LP
year of release: 2011
label: Proph­ecy
dur­a­tion: 54:17

French pro­ject Alcest has been impress­ing a good many folk in recent years with an ori­ginal blend of shoegaze and romantic black metal. When Le Secret was ori­gin­ally released by Drakkar in 2005, it gained the pro­ject a good fol­low­ing, but things really took off with the first full-length Souven­irs d’un Autre Monde on Proph­ecy in 2007. Fol­lowup Écailles de Lune came last year, so the time was ripe to put the debut EP back in the spot­light. The way this was handled by pro­ject mas­ter­mind Neige - by rerecord­ing both tracks - is a stroke of genius, bring­ing these two tracks up to a level of refine­ment that fits in per­fectly with the two albums, and even exceeds them in some respects.

Judging these tracks by their new ver­sions, I have no hes­it­a­tion of pla­cing them both among the best released by Alcest thus far. “Le Secret” forms its bor­ders from a gentle cir­cu­lar melody on clean gui­tar, and its centre is com­posed of mid-tempo waves of dis­tor­ted gui­tars and drums, a exem­plary syn­thesis of shoegaze and black metal play­ing, with Neige’s dreamy clean vocals layered on top. As is often the case with Alcest, most melodic motifs and chords have a sort of bright­ness and open­ness to them, steer­ing the music’s atmo­sphere in the dir­ec­tion of sub­lime nat­ural exper­i­ences and mys­tic nar­rat­ives.

Eléva­tion” is equally bril­liant. An soft synth intro sets the scene for a faster black metal part, now truly so, with straight-out rhythm and screams. Again, the tone is expans­ive, open, and bright, tend­ing more towards nature-inspired kind of black metal than the nihil­ist one. After the break, the mid-tempo middle part is a sub­lime series of the same motif worked out in dif­fer­ent ways, passing through strongly per­cus­sioned heavy parts, and cul­min­at­ing in the dreamy style that is typ­ical for Alcest. A reprise of the ori­ginal black metal part and synth from the intro closes the circle.

With these two tracks, Alcest returns to its ori­gins, and sim­ul­tan­eously deliv­ers its best work, in my opin­ion. Le Secret man­ages to deftly avoid the points on the two full length albums where the bright atmo­sphere turned a little too soft, like the sug­ary “Tir Nan Og” on Souven­irs, and in doing so, stays focused on the strongest points of the music: the expans­ive nat­ural riffs and the dreamy gentler parts. The addi­tion of the two ori­ginal tracks is also nice, albeit mostly for his­tor­ical interests. They illus­trate per­fectly how to take a dia­mond in the rough and cut some true gems from it.

Proph­ecy has made some nice collector’s edi­tions of this EP for the Alcest fans, who’ll love this re-release, but the album is also highly recom­men­ded listen­ing for any­one into atmo­spheric and nature-inspired rock and metal.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Le Secret (Rerecor­ded) (13:32)
2. Eléva­tion (Rerecor­ded) (13:26)

3. Le Secret (14:33)
4. Eléva­tion (12:46)