Monday, January 21, 2008

ALCEST — SOUVENIRS D'UN AUTRE MONDE

ALCEST — SOUVENIRS D'UN AUTRE MONDE

Before trting to decide if SOUVENIRS D'UN AUTRE MONDE is the best album of the year or not, I first have to decide if it's even better than Jesu's Conqueror — which I'm not sure was the best album of 2007 yet.

The similarities are striking. Both bands are working in a beautiful, bottom heavy/ethereal top, wall of sound straight from My Bloody Valentine if they turned into a doom/black metal band by way of Neurosis and the post-rock, ambient metal bands.

It's weird to think about shoegazer and metal working so nicely together, but that's what Smashing Pumpkins tried to do. It's burried in a lot of Nine Inch nails as well. But Alcest have replaced the Cheap Trick/KISS influence of the former and the Ministry/Front 242 influence of the latter with... Godspeed You Black Emperor, Berlin-era Bowie, or any of the post-Eno soundscape artists.

So, this is similar to Conqueror, but where does it diverge? It uses more female voice (like Jesu's more fragmented Lifeline), it's almost entirely in French (which works a million times better than it reads on the screen), the drums are sometimes more pulse-like. The album cover is awful and looks more like a lame description of the sound than actually reflects the sound.

The whole thing is ridiculously epic, with swirling, superfast guitars on top of big, melodic guitars on top of guitars running through a hundred thousand distortion pedals, on top of thunderous bass, on top of huge, splashy cymbals, on top of pounding drums — and then breaking into quietly dueling accoustic guitars and snare brushes before rushing into absolutely ginormous sweeping distortion.

Maybe it's the Pixies with just a little less rock 'n' roll. Actually, that's an almost perfect way to describe the fifth song on the album, Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai (On the other shore I will await you). It's the Pixies with a little less swagger and a little more self-importance. A little less dirty and a little more "next stop, enlightenment."

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