Top critical review
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A bold-ish step in a 'new' direction
on 7 February 2014
The opening moments of Shelter are tremendous. A spacious, reverberating thud of bass drum, the simple vocal melody, soaring into the fully blown ‘Opale’, a glorious breath of fresh air. It’s a positive and joyful experience every time. What makes it even more special, aside from the soulful instrumentation, is the other-language effect: making the voice an instrument that moulds with the music and allows the sound as a whole to be the focal point.
From ‘Opale’, the album continues with a consistent musical approach, a more polished and bright recording than previous releases, leaning heavily toward a ‘wall-of-sound’ production, and herein lies my disappointment with the album. Alcest were always interesting because they created a metal-infused style of shoegaze, with many traits of the black-metal genre supplementing their sound. Black metal is not for everyone, not for the majority of people even, but Alcest played major-quality shoegaze and by incorporating a much heavier style, yet still postitive in tone, they had managed to carve something completely different out of the genre. The ability to reflect light and dark to the extremes within one song was always captivating.
With ‘Shelter’, Alcest have embraced a ‘fully-shoegaze’ direction; the album is made up of beautiful, positive music. Whilst this will be a step-forward in mainstream ability, it feels like a step-back in terms of the identity Alcest were still in the process of creating. I understand the move; it’s a good time for Alcest to do this. They’ve been going long enough to have garnered something of a cult following, and a cult-following will always be open minded to changes. There is an aspect of trust in the artist; the genius. There will be those, like myself however, that get a little lost on the way.
My disappointment, which I put forward purely as my own single opinion, is in the lack of engagement this music now offers. Alcest’s previous albums were wonders to me, so unique and well realised, a style of music that was relaxing and yet kept you on your toes. It feels unlikely that Alcest will step back into that territory now, because what they’ve done with Shelter, they’ve done really well. This album is a great piece of background music, to study to, to think to; it’s perfect. What it lacks is the egagement and excitement that made Alcest truly stand out in a growing genre.