“[Bands] lose sight of what’s really important. What’s really important is the music, and the …
Somewhere in the twilight between the deepest night and the delicate rays of sunrise is the ethereal landscape of French composer for Alcest, Neige.
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In his entrancing project Alcest, listeners have been challenged and enlightened, through the archetypical blackgaze of Alcest’s immersive experience since forming in 2000 and debuting Souvenirs d’un autre Monde in 2007. The experience is about to intensify, as Alcest prepare to release Spiritual Instinct, their sixth and most emotionally turbulent album to date.
“I’ve always been a very spiritual person, I had lost touch with this,” Neige says about the reasons for Spiritual Instinct’s darkness and intensity. “So, we toured a lot for Kodama , a very long three years, we were always on the road, living away. You know how it is, you can get lost, you lost touch with yourself, lose touch with the things you like, your existence as a person, because you are always with people, no time alone, no time to reflect, sometimes you can not find yourself, and I think its important to stay connected. I was feeling quite down, over three long years of touring, I had a lot of anger and frustration, and things that I didn’t process, because I am quite an anxious person, by my nature, and sometimes I need to be alone to process things. So when we had time to write new music for Alcest, the music that came out was dark and angry. And that’s why called this Spiritual Instinct as well, because for me spirituality is instinctive, something that comes from a gut feeling, and something that I need in my life, and I wanted it back.”
The tensions between darkness and empowerment, the beautiful and the aggressive, are quite pronounced on Spiritual Instinct. As Neige says, these dualities reflect his own struggle and yearning: “I am always feeling some kind of contradiction in me, as I am a spiritual person, I tend to want to get higher, want to be a better person, want to get connected to like the divine side of life, and have my own beliefs, I believe in the afterlife, I believe in the existence of the soul, I think that we are incarnated here to learn something, to progress as beings, to improve. So I always have this part of me that needs to improve, which is happy to forward. But also I am very anxious, I have a certain dark side, you know, and these two sides are conflicting with each other, and it’s hard to find some kind of balance, between something that is very down to earth, very material, and something that is more like in the higher spheres of life. That is what you can hear in Alcest’s music in general, and perhaps more on this album.”
If you want to grow and improve, you must accept yourself, exactly the way you are. Who you are is all you have to work with. When you follow a spiritual path, all the answers will be found inside you. In religion, the answers will be given to you, like have to follow the rules, you don’t have to question anything, you just have to follow. This is why I do not like religion. In spirituality, you have to make the effort to find the answers. You might not even find them, but the beauty in spirituality is just wondering and asking questions …you really connect to who you are, living in the moment.
Regarding how Alcest reconciles these tensions musically, Neige says, “You know, in the very beginning of the process you don’t think so much, so I write in a very spontaneous way, I just let things happen, so I take my guitar and write riffs, and when I have two or three songs done I can see the album taking a direction, and I can start to use my brain a little bit more and try to make all the pieces fall together a bit more, but in the beginning its very interesting, as it is almost like you really don’t control, you don’t know what is going to happen, and that’s very beautiful in music, but it’s some kind of pure expression of what is inside you, like all the things you can’t really put into words, all the emotions. So yeah that’s what happens. I write on the guitar mostly, I record some demos, I send them to the drummer [Winterhalter] and we work on some drums together. After a while, I can try to think a bit more about how the journey will be, the structure of the songs…every album we have has it’s own little context, like a small journey, there is a beginning and there is an end.”
Spiritual Instinct continues in this vein for it too takes us on a journey; but this time one of the mind. “There is this whole idea of the balance”, he says, “between my earthly side that is a bit darker, and the more like otherworldly side that is a bit more spiritual, there is always this idea of trying to find some kind of harmony. The beginning of the album is very kind of aggressive, so the first songs are very metal, and dark, and the more you progress on the album the more dreamy it gets, the more otherworldly. So you start from earth and you finish in some kind of more serene place. This message has always been very positive even if you can feel very down with some kind of chaos in your mind, you will manage, and you will find what you are looking for. I don’t want to make an album that doesn’t have any hope. There is always some kind of hope.”
Considering the song, Le Miroir [the mirror] that foreshadows the closing title track, is this ‘hope’ to be found, perhaps, in ourselves? “Le Miroir is very much about that,” says Neige, “if you want to grow and improve, you must accept yourself, exactly the way you are. Who you are is all you have to work with. When you follow a spiritual path, all the answers will be found inside you. In religion, the answers will be given to you, like have to follow the rules, you don’t have to question anything, you just have to follow. This is why I do not like religion. In spirituality, you have to make the effort to find the answers. You might not even find them, but the beauty in spirituality is just wondering and asking questions …you really connect to who you are, living in the moment. I think a lot of answers are to be found in this pure living, in the moment. And maybe that’s what the sense of life is: being alive is actually the most beautiful thing we can do here.”