Alcest + The Body @ Les Foufounes Electriques – 20th January 2017

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Rhode Island outfit, The Body have been devoutly expanding the boundaries of metal music since 1999. The outfit’s catalog of innovative sludge metal is calculated to induce fear. Encapsulating hopelessness, melodrama, death and despair, The Body’s central sound is capable of starting about the apocalypse, but not without terrorizing your ear-drums first
When translated live, the music is overwhelming — like two walls steadily closing between you. Upon first listen, the glacial tempos conjured by members Lee Buford and Chip King may sound cacophonous to the untrained ear. But behind the music’s bleak aesthetic lies an indelible live experience that’s as compelling as it is disturbing.

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Since releasing their defiant 2016 effort No One Deserves Happiness, The Body have made a few modifications to their live set. This alteration redefined the band’s sense of musicianship, swapping their trademark guitar drones and murky drums for effect-pedals. It was striking to see Buford and King hunched over pedal boards, sure, but as soon the set began, the audience was captivated.

The sounds produced were remarkably intricate, weaving nuanced industrial beats, sharp fits of feedback and murderous vocals into a gapping sonic hellhole. But whereas The Body specialize in being as punishingly loud as possible, headliners Alcest were a far more introspective force.

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The Paris outfit are renowned for pioneering the ‘blackgaze’ genre, an ethereal mish-mash of black metal and cloudy shoegaze. Alcest have stripped back the last vestiges of metal from their core sound and instead opted for hushed fingerpicking and effect-laden guitars amplified by glossy production. The rest was soaked in reverb.

Stéphane Paut, the irresistibly endearing frontman of Alcest, is a surprisingly diverse live singer. Paut struck a balance between a throat-shredding death growl, which he utilized during choice moments during the show, and a plaintive coo. It created a palpable feeling of intensity in the air. Amidst hazy guitar noodling, frenetic melodies and towering musicianship, Paut’s voice cut through the mix with crystalline precision.

Alcest’s sense of dynamics imbued their black metal leanings with moments of controlled bliss. This dichotomy unraveled as slowly as molasses, leaving the audience with nothing to do but give in to the entrancing tones.

Alcest masterfully replicated the intricacies it explores on record and delivered one of the most coherent live sets I’ve heard in a while. Making music that is both delicate and relentless in expression requires a degree of prowess that most musicians can barely even fathom. Alcest do it because it feels human.

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Review & photos – Calvin Cashen

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