Saturday, November 3, 2012

Artist of the Day: Alcest

Music is, and always has been, about communicating a message from the artist, something they hold as a close personal ideal, to the audience. It's intended to be open to manipulation as the artist sees fit and send this message in as receptive a way as they can for the world to see. For Stephane "Neige" Paut, this message is a musical adaptation of memories of a far off country, "Fairy Land," that Neige remembers as a child. The point of Alcest is a way for the listener to be able to experience what Neige once had through his songs. The concept is hard for us to believe, feels so absurd - yet, whenever I hear Alcest, my mind wills itself to wander, and it becomes difficult to focus on the present. To me, this feels like solid evidence that whatever Neige has planned for his music, it succeeds at making the listener escape the world of today for something bigger than ourselves.

Neige didn't actually create Alcest to be like this, though. Originally, it was a black metal solo-project that turned into a trio, with a release of Tristesse Hivernale, a demotape that showcased Neige's incredible knack for writing at a young age, but not quite what he had in mind for the band. Soon after the demo, Alcest reverted back to a one-man project, and Neige spent some time revising his material and developing a meaningful vision for the band. In 2005, he released Le Secret, a 2-song EP that introduced the new Alcest. The new material was vastly different than the black metal of four years previous, painting a picture of something mysterious, not quite in place, inspiring curiosity and intrigue instead of just crunchy distortion and screaming vocals. Le Secret was a powerful release, and set Alcest on the track for what it is today.

In 2007, Neige released Souvenirs d'un autre monde, or Memories of Another World, his first full-length for the band. Received with critical acclaim, Alcest struck fantastically well with music sites everywhere. Neige followed up Souvenirs with a sophomore album three years later, Ecailles de Lune (Scales of the Moon), again to high praise. The sophomore marked the first time that Neige had worked in cooperation with other musicians (besides one female guest vocalist on Souvenirs), and musician Winterhalter from Les Discrets joined Alcest as a full time drummer.

Earlier this year, Alcest released Les Voyages de l'Ame (The Soul's Journeys), setting a new standard for himself. The most recent album also feels the closest to what Neige's ideal was for the band in the first place. He has a single out from Les Voyages, "Autre Temps," and the song takes you on a journey. Perhaps not the happiest, but a journey unlike any other, through a musical soundscape the likes of which you have never experienced. Through dark forests, torrid evening winds blow, but Neige brings us to a clearing where on the horizon, you can see the dawning sun arise. It's a beautiful track, and just an example of what he evokes on Les Voyages. As Alcest evolves and grows, so does Neige's musical storytelling abilities, and the idea forms more and more with every release.

Learn all about Alcest and Neige on his site here.

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