Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

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Beach House – White Moon / Mathemagic and Young Prisms

August 24, 2010

Check out this lovely new Beach House joint from their iTunes Sessions EP.

Beach House

Also, check out possibly the best post yet on Altered Zones, two new songs from Mathemagic and Young Prisms on their new split 7″. The Mathemagic side is a shimmering electronic pop song, maybe in the realm of chillwave. The Young Prisms side is a woozy, reverb-laden ballad. Both are dreamy and excellent.

Mathemagic/Young Prisms Split 7"

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Three DC Concerts: Beach House, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Gang Gang Dance

April 2, 2010

DC just had its arguably busiest week in concerts of the season. The city had shows from the likes of Beach House, Dum Dum Girls, Real Estate, Deerhunter, Spoon, Gang Gang Dance, The xx, A Sunny Day in Glasgow and jj. I personally hit up three shows in a five day period: Beach House, A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Gang Gang Dance.

Beach House at the Black Cat on Friday might have been the most hyped concert of the week for one of the most hyped bands of the year. They quite easily sold out the Black Cat and packed the Main Stage room full of eager fans. The precious Bachelorette opened, who got a fair bit of audience response, probably due in part to her quiet, cutesy New Zealandic accent. Her set mostly consisted of cleverly looped vocals, guitar strums, and drum machines that made for a well received whole. When Beach House stormed the stage, the crowd couldn’t have been happier, frequently letting loose “we love you Victoria!”s and other such words of praise. The band’s set was decent sized and was delivered as well as received with great enthusiasm. Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scalley actually move around on stage and have more energy than their slow, syrupy music might suggest. They played all but one song from their new album Teen Dream (sadly giving arguably the album’s best song, “Real Love,” the shaft) as well as a couple older numbers, even stretching back to their 2006 self-titled debut for “Master of None.” The encore was just perfect. They first played a crowd favorite from 2008’s sophomore album Devotion, “Astronaut,” and clinched the show with a spirited rendition of “10 Mile Stereo.” Although seeing Beach House live doesn’t differ much from  hearing them on an album, it stands that doing both is a breathtaking emotional experience, and I would say that just about everyone at the Black Cat on Friday had a great time.

Beach House

A Sunny Day in Glasgow played on Sunday at DC9, which might take the cake as DC’s smallest regular concert venue, but it is also one of its most rewarding. Its acoustics are nice and its setup puts the audience just feet away from the performers. We walked in a little late to just catch Phil and the Osophers play an enjoyable, playful pop set that felt similar to the likes of Vampire Weekend. Although it was a fairly innocuous set, I admit to wanting to hear more from the band, and I hope they had a good time at SXSW where they played just last week. When A Sunny Day in Glasgow got started, their set was unstoppable. Their live presence is something to be reckoned with, six band members on stage all doing different things for every song (a favorite moment was when Ben Daniels broke out an electric mandolin). The group focuses their powers around vocalists Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma, who harmonize the songs’ airy vocals to lovely effect. Most of the songs they played sounded better than the studio versions, which were already superb (recall my naming Ashes Grammar one of the best albums of this past decade). They played through new favorites like “White Witch,” “Failure” and “Passionate Introverts” with lovely vitality. The biggest disappointment of the show was the lack of an encore; they played through a rather short set and could have easily extended it to better please the crowd, but that was about their only shortcoming. They will surely have my ticket sale the next time they come to town.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow

The wait for Gang Gang Dance at the Rock ‘n Roll Hotel on Tuesday was long, and opening act High Life only made it feel longer. His high pitched squeals over noisy effects loops were maybe an appropriate way to ease the audience into Gang Gang Dance’s set, but it was still hardly appreciated except by a select few near the stage. He later made up for the set by acting as Gang Gang Dance’s much needed bass player, who gave the main band’s music the strong under-melody it needed. This was particularly important because Gang Gang Dance played so loud that it was sometimes difficult to hear what one was hearing, and a strong sense of melody as well as rhythm was needed to make sense of the raucous din. This situation could have been disastrous if the acoustics were different and the sound was too noisy, but Gang Gang narrowly hit a bullseye mark that got most of the audience nodding and bobbing in a narcotic haze. All of the songs they played were new, some melodic and most all featuring beats and melodies that sound like they come straight from Saudi Arabia or India. The only tune I recognized was the shimmering “Crystals,” which featured steel drum sound effects and twinkling synthesizers. We can hope that this song, as well as the others we heard that night, will make it onto Gang Gang’s next proper studio LP. Overall I’d say the venue housed a great amount of satisfied customers, considering the band surprisingly almost packed the house. But we need to remember that Gang Gang are a noise band, and though their noise is beautiful, it is still willfully cacophonous, and should be judged appropriately.

Gang Gang Dance

Overall, I had a really awesome time at all of these shows. Conclusion: DC has a lot of great shows, some of which are highly attended and some that aren’t, and if you pick and choose well enough, you can get more than your money’s worth for a night, or week, of fun.

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

February 14, 2010

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

It’s tough to talk about this one, not because it seems as if everything that can be said about it has been said, but because there are always new things to say about it. I’m honestly always throwing different adjectives at Loveless. None of them hit the mark. None of them even come close.

Yeah, it doesn’t help people who haven’t heard Loveless when I tell them “look, you just kind of have to listen to it.” And sometimes, “you just have to stick with it.” But there come points of understanding with Loveless where you don’t really have words and then you sort of fathom why it’s so difficult to put into concrete terms.

Sure, My Bloody Valentine “got it” with some of their mid-career EPs. You could hear they knew what they wanted to be, and with You Made Me Realize and Isn’t Anything they locked in and made their ideals secondary, crafting classics of the era. Still, they were getting closer to something. But listening to Loveless after Isn’t Anything or even Glider is still a bizarre departure. The leap in style and composition is jarring, and even though Loveless is a sensible next step, it still sounds like a whole slew of material was skipped on the way to it.

And really, it’s not a stretch at all to say nothing sounds like Loveless. God knows enough people have tried to emulate it; Loveless skyrocketed the sub-genre of shoegaze into the indie stratosphere and people tried to shadow its style for, now, decades. And yet I haven’t heard even one other band attempt to use My Bloody Valentine’s tremolo techniques, deliver half as eclectic of a set or even touch on its emotional impact.

And emotional impact might be its most recognizable quality. Loveless is an incredibly visceral record; even when it sounds wrong it feels right. Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher make their guitars pulse and tremble in a somewhat random fashion, blanketing innovative pop songs with an unpredictable sheet of warmth. The result is incredibly difficult to pin down and yet still completely beautiful and moving.

The irony of its title seems to be the album’s least discussed issue, and my guess is because it is either so obviously ass backwards that it requires no further acknowledgment or because there are subtle implications throughout that Loveless never quite reaches transcendence. Shields himself has claimed that he wishes he could have taken the ideas he presented on Loveless further, but doing so would have ensured that it would never be released, and I have heard this album described as “ugly” countless times. It’s not an easy album, and it is by no means perfect, but its rewards leave us speechless, and that is something that few, if any, other artists have ever truly achieved. There is no album more filled with love.

My Bloody Valentine

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Mew – No More Stories / Are Told Today / I'm Sorry / They Washed Away // No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I'm Tired / Let's Wash Away

September 12, 2009

I don’t have a lot of energy right now, as it is late and I am back late from a show, but I am now listening to this album and feel that it deserves a shout out. So I’m going to give my incomplete, unedited take on it.

mew_no_more_stories

As the year progresses, more and more albums are catching my ear that impress me. I’ll be blunt by saying that No More Stories… is one of those albums. It is different from Mew’s previous LP, And The Glass Handed Kites (which, man, came out four years ago already?) in that it is very much a set of songs as opposed to a long suite. Each song is individual and memorable. This is due in part to Mew’s frequent tendency to experiment a little, and thus we get songs like “New Terrain” (which when played backwards reveals a completely different song. what’s shocking is that both songs are actually good), “Introducing Palace Players” (a fractured, no-tempo stomp), and “Cartoons and Macrame Wounds” (which begins at it’s climax and works backwards). These songs are pretty out there at first listen, but give them a little time and the pieces click into place and they are ultimately enticing. They are just new and different enough to be fascinating but they also have more conventional, melodic elements to them, and Mew are very good at melody. The album isn’t all experimentalism though; there are a couple more streamlined tunes here, but they aren’t by any means radio pop. “Repeaterbeater” reminisces of “Apocalypso” off of Glass Handed Kites in that it is shamelessly riffy hard rock. I’ll put another thing bluntly. This album is loaded. It’s got a lot of really memorable songs, and really no bad songs. Even the longer, downtempo pieces (“Silas the Magic Car,” “Cartoons and Macrame Wounds”) are top notch chamber dream pop despite being a little less involving. After maybe two listens, everything here is as familiar and excellent sounding as on Mew’s previous albums. The selection of songs that are excellent here is pretty overwhelming. Besides what I’ve already mentioned, “Beach,” “Hawaii Dream” (the album’s centerpiece, a tiny interlude. how funny that it ends up being one of the more memorable tracks on the album.), “Hawaii” (this one is just perfect, a charming tropical pop song complete with marimbas and skybound reverberating vocals), and “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy” are all instantly classic Mew. And on the latter, Mew manage to match their awesome guest spot from J Mascis on Glass Handed Kites’ “Why Are You Looking Grave” with a showstopping performance from Mari Helgerlikova, an 88 year old Danish avant-garde singer. Basically, get this album for Christ’s sake. Mew make music that is, like much great art, just new and interesting enough to be engaging, but isn’t too far out. They are completely unabashed in their pop and rock sensibilities while still having the bravery to utilize conventions of many of their favorite genres such as shoegaze, dream pop, progressive rock and even classical pop. You could make a pretty good case that this is Mew’s best album to date. I can hear the complaint already that some might think that this album is tired, but it aknowledges this in it’s title, and knows it. Life can be weary and overbearing but finding refuge in quality music, whether it is music you can rock out to or curl up on the couch with, is pure satisfaction.

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Asobi Seksu – Hush

March 23, 2009
Asobi Seksu - Hush

Asobi Seksu - Hush

Asobi Seksu are a band that has claimed many adjectives. Their self-titled debut was, in a word, charming. It’s 2006 follow-up, Citrus, was, in another word, breathtaking (and I believe an easy pick for best album of 2006). Most bands would be happy to have just those words, but this band has garnered many more: “electric,” “judicious,” “succulent” and “charismatic,” among many others. How many more positive things can one say about a band? It seems to make sense, then, that not as many wonderful things are being said about the band’s new album, Hush. After all, where do you go once you get to the top of the mountain, like Asobi Seksu did with Citrus?

In retrospect, two options seem obvious. Both involve a step downward in quality, because there was no way they were going to trump Citrus, no matter what. Option one involves doing more of the same glittery shoegaze that we love, and getting blasted for not doing anything different. Option two involves dressing down their sound to something more subdued, and that is exactly what core members Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna do on Hush.

What this does is test their songwriting ability by leaving it to be the main attraction of the album. The tunes here are, instead of empowered and youthful like on Citrus, serious and contemplative. Also, the band switch from big room-filling My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze to more elegant Cocteau Twins-esque dreampop. The appearance of Chikudate on the cover might match this sound, as it did on the previous albums. More often than not, this new sound works, and we once again get the feeling that these musicians really are quite talented. Some songs, namely “Layers” and “Transparence,” find the band playing more charmingly simple music that works because they know how to match their new icy dreampop sound with simple melodies.

Without their sonic dress-up, Chikudate’s lyrics now reveal themselves as actually being a lot like Hannah’s. When he sang on songs like “Pink Cloud Tracing Paper” on Citrus, Hannah sounded shy, but that sort of shy vocal style that we find kind of cute. We got a taste of that from Chikudate too, but on Hush just about all of the vocals are like this, restrained. We want them to be brave and shout out, but they never seem to. In terms of instrumentation, they make similar conscious refrains. We do get hints of the reverb that we have heard from them in the past, but sometimes we can barely even hear any guitar (“Gliss”). The end product is ultimately very reserved, and we get the feeling that if we accompanied these songs with the self-assured sonic hugeness that the band had claimed previously, we’d get a lot more truly memorable songs.

And in fact, they do this exactly once, on the album’s first single, “Me & Mary.” The song sounds like a Citrus outtake, and it proves that their songwriting ability is still outwardly excellent if it is presented with this vitality. The rest of the album screams out to be fully expressed like “Me & Mary,” particularly on songs like “Familiar Light,” “Gliss,” and “Glacially.” It’s as if they are giving us a taste of what they could really accomplish should they decide to re-introduce the muscular production they once used, but its conscious shedding takes away something really important. The “Exotic Animal Paradise” we heard on Citrus may still be here, but it is deliberately obscured to the point where it is barely cognizable.

The most interesting thing about Hush is that it wears its sound and potential weaknesses on its sleeves. This could be seen as very empowering. We don’t have to search for an all-encompassing adjective here. It is provided for us. “Hush” was the logical next step, but there was more than one option. A very telling fact springs from the title of the album’s only instrumental interlude, “Risky and Pretty.” Asobi Seksu are good at being pretty, and they don’t have to be risky to be successful. The self titled album and Citrus were both accessible, loveable albums, and this one had the potential to be as much. The decision to make a sound change wasn’t necessarily a damning idea, but the risk they decided to take feels more like a calculated business decision. “Risky” would have been to not be afraid to stick with what works. But it should be said that Asobi Seksu make the sound switch fairly intelligently despite its inherent shortcomings, and they also still know how to write catchy tunes. So Hush will please fans, but it isn’t anywhere near the quality of its predecessors. But even if it was a complete disaster, I would have still bought tickets to see Asobi Seksu on March 28th. I haven’t given up on this band’s capability to make excellent albums. They are two for three, after all, so they have earned the benefit of the doubt as well as my encouragement as a fan to try whatever kind of sound they please.

Asobi Seksu

Asobi Seksu

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My Bloody Valentine – You Made Me Realise

September 17, 2008

Before My Bloody Valentine released their first album, Isn’t Anything, in 1988, they released a boatload of EPs. These EPs had a clear progression, but it was not until the seventh such EP, You Made Me Realise, when the band started to refine themselves into something important, and something more than a cheap pop band. Not that there was anything wrong with Strawberry And Wine and Ecstasy. Although they were deliberately vintage in their songcraft, they were loaded with fantastic pop that was more shimmering than most anything else on the market. In that sense, You Made Me Realise clearly bridges the gap between Ecstasy and Isn’t Anything. My Bloody Valentine are still a pop band, but are trying new and brave things. All the songs here are under four minutes, making the EP feel tightly wound, and each song has something completely different to offer. We still hear the familiar pop gold on the fast, driving Thorn and the closing Drive It All Over Me, two of the catchiest tunes ever put to record. Conversely slow and creamy is the hip hop inspired Slow. It has no chorus, and features one of the first examples of My Bloody Valentines famous tremelo techniques that would be touched on with Isn’t Anything and perfected on Loveless. The title track is three and a half minutes of blistering punk, and is in many respects My Bloody Valentine’s most triumphant single, with a final noise freakout that would swell from forty seconds to twenty minutes by the time it became a live staple for My Bloody Valentine to turn up their amps to ludicrous volumes and bombard their audiences with noise. This noise break may very well have been what inspired My Bloody Valentine to do the great things they did on Isn’t Anything and Loveless. Equally as interesting is the avant garde song Cigarette In Your Bed, which develops from a marching pace to a sprinting final stretch, all while experimenting with a range of guitar techniques. All of this comes together to make an extremely important EP in the history of both My Bloody Valentine and the shoegaze genre, but more importantly one of the most fun and listenable EPs of all time.

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The Ludvico Treatment – Romanticism

April 6, 2008

It has been established that there is such thing as new, original shoegaze, although it is rare and usually disposable. And then there is the majority of the genre, the stuff that sticks close to the roots and does not really bring anything new to the table. I could fill pages of albums from bands that have no originality whatsoever and are nothing more than a pack of cigarettes to be smoked through, and the carton thrown away. The Ludvico Treatment are probably just another band of this type, but something about them is compelling.

It baffles me that this is the first shoegaze album entitled Romanticism. The word might as well be the unflappable thesis of the genre. That said, Romanticism doesn’t just stay in one place like most ripoff shoegaze bands do. It explores the nooks and crannies of the genre better than any other shoegaze album I have ever encountered, and I have encountered many. Each song seems to come from a different direction. Of course, there has to be My Bloody Valentine influence, and the opening track 16:22 makes a not so underhanded throwback to Only Shallow. But it is likeable, in any case. The gentle Affectations is more attuned to The Catherine Wheel. Olivia My Love screams Ride. And perhaps the most interesting influence, and I’m pretty sure about this one, is the obscure My Bloody Valentine rarity, 2, which surfaces through the second to last song on Romanticism, (Everything.). Amazing.

In a word, this is an album that shoegaze entrepreneurs (if there is such a thing) will oogle over for longer than usual, because it tries more than one style. Which means they don’t really have any particular style or sound to distinguish them. We weren’t expecting them to. The flipside is that The Ludvico treatment can write some pretty nice pop melodies, and we love shoegaze, so it is a winning combo. Highlights are not few. Olivia My Love is the bittersweet aural sonnet. Affectations is a reminder that acoustic guitars do work in shoegaze if handled well enough. I was particularly impressed with Let Love Come in Through the Window. It surprised me. It sounded like it was going to be trite jock rock, or nu-metal, or something, up until the chorus, which turns everything inside out. Shoegaze doesn’t usually have screaming. It works here.

Romanticism has a couple sinkers, though. …And He Is Trapped in Ever After has a very tired melody. The closer, 11.22.63, is mostly angry Crossfade-esque guitar work played over a recording of the famous news report covering the Kennedy assassination as it happened on said date. It feels like wasted time that this cliche ends up being the album’s closing statement.

It should also be said that for a self released album, the production values here are impeccable. They almost sound too good for me to believe they aren’t professional. If they aren’t, they were probably slaved over. The moody, acoustic pieces are quite well treated, and the walls of noise sound refined. Whoever did this job gets mad props.

Romanticism is fun, more fun than most disposable shoegaze albums I have heard. It is still wishy washy, and the band has not developed a style here. I would expect a second album to steer itself more in one direction. Guesses? Maybe either mostly gentle acoustic based pieces, or a loud noisefest that might cater more to the punk influences that are buried in the annals of the genre. But how the hell should I know? I wanted a quick fix of shoegaze. That’s what I got, no more, no less. I’ll remember this one for being fun. And the fact that I will remember it says something.

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Sigur Ros – Heima

January 23, 2008

As Sigur Ros bassist Georg speaks in the tour diary included in the second disk of the Heima DVD, up until the release of this film, Sigur Ros fans had not really been given a visual document of the bands work and spirit aside from the album artwork, which is perfectly pleasant and beautiful on it’s own terms, but does not really give fans the kind of concert experience that they have always wished for. Heima is a film about Iceland, and the islands most popular band, Sigur Ros, on a short unannounced tour throughout the country. Heima means “at home,” which means that the band is in their most comfortable environment, their own home country with all of it’s beautiful, homely charms.

The majority of the film is presented in the form of live concert footage and footage of Iceland’s beautiful natural landscapes. It is divided into passages concentrated on different towns, villages, and cities, and personal concert experiences from each. The idea that this could turn into a dull, Discovery Channel documentary is immediately disproved, as the band proves that they are among the most innovative and consistently interesting performers in a long time. In fact, Sigur Ros turn what we know about documentaries, let alone music documentaries, upside down. Within the first fifteen minutes, we are shown live footage of the band performing one of the better songs off of Takk while completely silhouetted by an earthen cloth that takes up the entire expanse of a stage. The entire song is performed under shadow, reminding us that the music of Sigur Ros is as much about what is not there as what is there. This may seem pretentious, but we must remember that this is a band that released an album with blank pages in the sleeve meant for fans to produce lyrics of their own, a counterpoint for the fact that Sigur Ros vocalist Jonsi almost exclusively sings in a babel that does not belong to any language.

Almost every song is performed in a unique way or in a unique place, and although some of the performances do not add anything new to their studio recordings, they all resonate with warmth. This may be partially due to the inclusion of the band’s supporting strings section, the all girls band Amiina, that has served Sigur Ros very well within the past ten years and act as family both professionally and personally.

Another switch-up is employed very early on in the naturalistic segments. Footage of running water from streams and waterfalls is reversed. I could tell you that this represents Sigur Ros moving backwards in it’s own footsteps in the snow, back home, to where things started, but then I would sound like I’m looking for reasons to praise the bands every move. This kind of over-analysis from fans is what has given the band their pretentious reputation. What we need to remember is, water running backwards in gorgeous high quality just looks impressive. And the ideas of Sigur Ros are not always as complex as we may think. The band keeps their music close to the human condition, and closer to the human ear.

What Sigur Ros have done are bring us into their world, into their home, and showed us what their music is about. Heima is as much a testament to Iceland as it is to Sigur Ros and their live repertoire. Throughout the span of the film, the band play songs in desolate regions such as in the middle of a forest as well in a slew of other places that I will not mention so to leave the majority of the movie a surprise. These performances are either pretentious or completely genuine, and we struggle with this question until after the performance of the final song, when Jonsi describes an interesting family tidbit which I also cannot reproduce here, in risk of it losing it’s effect. We are also shown footage of the people of the different Icelandic villages living their everyday lives, as well as indulging in the concerts, which they seem only half as impressed about as we do. A local marching band accompanying Sigur Ros onstage seems to them to be completely natural, as unique as it is. Moments like these are not few, and I struggle to not reveal more of them because of how interesting they all are. But shots of the natural beauty of Iceland are just as important and moving as the happenings the people that inhabit it. This seems to be part musical documentary, and part natural documentary, both areas approached in lighthearted and honest ways.

Intricacies aside, Heima is a solid live concert experience. The songs are performed very well, although they do not differ much aurally from the original album cuts. The DVD is put together very nicely, but at times the interactive menus can get a bit confusing and tiring, despite their creativity of their presentation of an elderly map of Iceland, which are probably much more navigable to Icelandic people. The extras are quite interesting and are enough to keep fans’ appetites quelled until the band’s next release, whenever that may be. There are a couple different versions of Heima that you can buy, namely the standard two disk DVD as well as a deluxe edition with an art book, but both releases have the same two disks and are only cosmetically different. My complaints of the film are only in my desire to have seen some of my personal favorite songs performed, specifically Gong, Saeglopur, and Svefn-g-englar, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and none of the song selections here are wasted efforts. I was especially impressed with the performance of Meo Blodnasir, a magical little interlude on Takk that would not normally be seen as anything more than filler. Even for casual Sigur Ros fans, Heima is essential, and it is surely the apex of Sigur Ros’ career thus far. Easily the best music documentary I have seen, and a highlight of 2007 in both music and film.

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Alcest – Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde

January 10, 2008

The past few years have been very good to shoegaze fans. Not in terms of number, but in terms of singular, unique albums that actually add something to the genre, which has been an elusive breed since the days of old when My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride pioneered their immensely popular and unique styles. 2005 saw the self titled debut of Serena Maneesh. 2006 also had a winner, Asobi Seksu’s Citrus. We have yet another winner this year with newcomer Alcest’s Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde, roughly translated from French as “memories of another world.” Such a title is appropriate for an album that, like any shoegaze album, is flooded with details and dreamy soundscapes. Yes, I know, you have heard it all before. It’s another garden variety shoegaze album that doesn’t really try anything different, isn’t it?

Actually, that might be true. Much like it’s guitar effects, shoegaze is a genre with highly distorted boundaries which are often pushed for the sake of trying something new instead of making quality music. When rabid experimentation is not present, excessive imitation is often the alternative. Souvenirs doesn’t really do either, and it succeeds just by being a pretty album. Alcest is essentially the work of one man, Frenchman Neige, whose roots are with such French black metal acts such as Peste Noire and Mortifera. A lot of people seem to be pinning Souvenirs as a black metal album, but if it is, I’m going to have to read into exactly what Black Metal is, because this is as much of a pure shoegaze album as I have ever heard. But what is strange is I can’t trace the roots of it’s sound back to any shoegaze bands of old. The closest it gets to is to Ride, and even then the resemblance is only vague.

In this way, Souvenirs is unique but not really engaging in a sense that although this sounds new, the style is fairly familiar. That is to say, big distorted guitar sounds arranged with sweeping melodies, glowing seven chords, simple beats, lots of cymbal crashes, and glazed ethereal vocals. Even shoegaze fans will admit that the trick has been overused. Some figure that if they drown a simple chord progression in distortion that it will somehow bloom and be beautiful, but really, you need a nice melody to really make something work. Neige knows how to write pretty, simple melodies, but he also knows how to play the shoegaze cards as well. Perhaps the most interesting fact in respect to Alcest’s style is that Neige claimed to have not listened to any shoegaze music prior to making Souvenirs. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but in any case, this album has a strong, grounded core of memorable, pretty melodies. The fact that it works in the shoegaze context only makes it all the more unique.

However, while his melodies are simple, Alcest manages to cover a wide range of melodies within single songs. Of the six songs on the album, not one dips under the six minute mark, and most songs are segmented into smaller, distinguishable movements. This keeps the songs interesting, but at times hard to pin down, much like Sigur Ros’ progressive post rock. And yet, while every song is bathed in electricity, they all feel organic too, and typically have an acoustic guitar and piano at their core. The two songs that impressed me most in this respect are Ciel Errant and Tir Nan Og. Ciel Errant is a lovely little acoustic guitar based ballad that somehow reminisces of The Smashing Pumpkins just as much as Sigur Ros or Ride. Tir Nan Og is the real winner though. The gentle piano leaps and acoustic guitar strumming in conjunction with a simple rhythm makes it sound like as much of a rural folk song as a dreamy urban shoegaze song. A perfect way to clinch the album.

Whatever Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde is, it’s beautiful, and you can expect more of this, because according to http://www.alcest-music.com, Alcest has signed to the Prophecy Productions label for a five album contract. Yeah. This wasn’t a one time shot. No matter what direction Alcest takes with any albums in the future, I’ll remember this one as one of the best of 2007.