Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme

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Review by Jason Guest

In the opening stanza to the poem ‘Auguries of Innocence’, William Blake juxtaposes innocence with evil and corruption, the opening lines foregrounding the wondrous infinity behind existence that seems to escape, even to this day, the subject trapped in the unceasingly ruthless discourses of its small-minded times:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

This Buddhist/Zen-like realisation is central to Les Voyages De L’Âme (“The Journeys of the Soul”). Here, Alcest mainman Neige dives deep into the landscapes of the imagination to paint a vivid picture of what some would dismiss as hope, fantasy, even insanity. Musically, Neige’s exploration knows no bounds and music has been absorbed, meditated upon, and toyed with to see what it can do and how it may be best utilised to serve his vision. Whether Alcest are (or ever have been) black metal or not are redundant, but the tremolo-picking, blast-beats, and tongue-slashing vocals may urge some to insist that they are. But to do so is to miss out on how the hybridity of a vast array of styles and genres functions within the whole. The clean and melodic vocals, the finger-picked guitar, the “shoegaze” elements, and all else work alongside, in harmony with, and (purposely) at variance with, contribute to this unfathomable yet incredibly gratifying gestalt of an album.

What to say about this album? Otherworldly? Ethereal? Magical? Yes, and more. Much more. Euphoric, joyous, with a child-like innocence to it, Les Voyages De L’Âme is delicate and delightful, enigmatic and mysterious, shadowy and optimistic, powerful and moving. There simply aren’t enough adjectives, similes, metaphors, or whatever tricks the English language has in its vast arsenal to describe this. And what there are remains inadequate to convey the experience of the album. When words fail, that is when art has been created. Blake and countless other poets have seen what lies beyond our mortal coil, and their works are incredible attempts to convey that to those that would take the time to sit for a moment and realise its glory. Alcest is one of those few. Melancholic and celebratory and of myriad dimensions, its success lies in its ambiguities, in the penumbra that waits, poised on the periphery of vision, escaping our grasp just as we reach for it. Les Voyages De L’Âme is just beautiful.

9 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Autre temps
  2. Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles
  3. Les voyages de l’âme
  4. Nous sommes l’emeraude
  5. Beings Of Light
  6. Faiseurs de mondes
  7. Havens
  8. Summer’s Glory

Visit Alcest here