There’s a point at which an artist has to decide why and for whom he or she creates, and for French post-black metal innovators Alcest, that point seems to have been during the recording of their 2012 full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here). As guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist, founder and principle songwriter Stéphane “Neige” Paut recalls, it was during this time that he began to feel as though he was playing to routine, making music more to please his fans and to meet expectations than to answer the call of his own creativity. If there was any question where Neige might end up on that issue, certainly the band’s fourth album, Shelter (review here), puts them to rest.
Released through Prophecy Productions and recorded in Iceland by Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós), Shelter maintains the emotional core that’s been at the center of Alcest‘s approach since their groundbreaking 2007 debut, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde. What’s changed is the context in which that signature element arrives. Shelter dispatches with most (not all) of the band’s black metal influence, Neige and drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre opting instead to shift their focus to a dreamy, bright melodicism which has always been there in Alcest‘s sound, but has never come to the fore in the way it does now, post-intro album opener “Opale” working quickly to establish a new clean, clear tonal foundation that songs like “L’Éveil des Muses” and “Voix Sereines” build on with the band’s signature shoegazing adventurousness.
One could easily argue that adventurousness has never been more prominent in Alcest‘s approach than it is on Shelter, both in terms of departing from what they’d established as their “norm” to unknown aesthetic ground, and in more obvious factors like choosing an English word for the title and bringing Slowdive‘s Neil Halstead to sing lead on “Away,” one of the album’s most central melodic washes. I spoke to Neige about these things and more prior to Alcest beginning a European tour with Hexvessel that wraps up this week in support of Shelter. He was both conscious of the changes in his band’s sound and of Shelter‘s potential to alienate some of their following, but resigned in having to do what he had to do to keep the band going. As much as it was one, his choice clearly had been made.
Please find the Q&A enclosed after the jump, and enjoy: