ALCEST – Kodama

 
Band: Alcest
Title: Kodama
Year: 2016
Country: France
Label: Prophecy Productions
Contacts:

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Translation: Crypt Of Fear
 
TRACKLIST

  1. Kodama
  2. Eclosion
  3. Je Suis D'Ailleurs
  4. Untouched
  5. Oiseaux De Proie
  6. Onyx
RUNNING TIME: 42:14
 

Here we go, he did it again. The French is back doing what he does better: writing good music. Finally. Those who followed us in the last years will remember my concerns about "Les Voyages De L'Âme", which then became complete disappointment thanks to the boorish mannerism of "Shelter"; Neige, we know you like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Pale Saints, and so on, we also like them so much, that's why if we have to listen to early Nineties shoegaze we listen to them, and not you. We listen to you if you give us something unexpected, something beautiful, something deep, emotionally engaging but also topical and fresh. In short, we listen to you if we give us a work like "Kodama".

I write this on a so disruptive and unexpected wave of enthusiasm that I haven't even picked up my copy of the album, so I don't know how to quantify the degree of importance of the visual side of the release yet, but what is already certain is that several things are evident at first impact with Førtifem's remarkable illustration. First of all the album has a eastern theme, Japanese indeed, as the title («kodama» means «spirits of the trees» and, for a range of actions, «echo») and label's notes confirm it. Then, the entire illustrative part is held in far greater importance than in the past, so much that this edition even comes out with a thirty-sixpages long artbook complete with pictures and notes. Lastly, "Kodama" represents for his visual style a neat detachement from the previous work and gets closer to the stratospheric and now classic "Écailles De Lune".

The confirmations of a (partial) return to the past aren't late to come: the titletrack opens referring to the wonders from 2010, but in a natural way, and at the same time sets up the tone of the album, by highlightning various elements of novelty. Winterhalter's drums are full, round and way more central to the band's economy than in the past, while the arrangments are decidedly less retro, less derivative and finally return to emphasize the duo's personality. The songs are more homogeneous, to the point a track we can call single doesn't exist, only an organic and wonderfully smooth work; in the first two episodes, Neige's songwriting already highlighted this trend, but never as in "Kodama" had done the impossible. Indeed, the scream reappears perfectly placed in the general context ("Eclosion", "Oiseaux De Proie"), sign that the rapprochement at his black metal origins — still in an album that isn't black metal and most assuredly doesn't want to be black metal — has been done. Even the post-rock influences have never been so strong, especially in the instrumental arrangements worthy of the best and most inspired God Is An Astronaut, but also some echoes of the most melancholic Sigur Rós come out, so much that "Kodama" is made of over nine minutes of lyricless vocalizations, as taught us by "()". I'm not making any comparision, just references.

Conceptually, at last, Prophecy Records says the album's main theme builds from Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke", growing along its own tracks, that I expect and hope Neige have exhaustively covered in the booklet's notes. Booklet that I can't wait to hold in my hands. Alcest have rediscovered themselves, they found the path of maturation again, and it's not by chance that in one of the songs that feels more black metal than the others, where the past is more alive, Neige tells us:

«Behold me
As I am
And embrace me
Do not let them
Rob me of my soul
Do not let them tarnish it»

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