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MONO/Alcest

Marble Factory, Bristol

16th November 2016

In life collaborations, partnerships and alliances certainly make us stronger and resilient to the challenges presented to us. The meeting of minds and the aligning of hearts strengthens our position, maximising potential to open up opportunities that maybe wouldn’t exist otherwise. We all know this to be true instinctively. Spending months on the road at a time, travelling, performing, promoting must be as rewarding as it is demanding. Japanese Post-Rock band Mono and French Post-Metal band Alcest who have been touring together for the last month across Europe know this. Sharing the bill, alternating the headline spot and playing to packed out venues, connecting with the like minded.

Alcest began as Black Metal solo project by Stéphane Paut otherwise known as Neige. Over the next sixteen years the band grew into a four piece and went on to produce five albums and in the process create a sub-genre called ‘Blackgaze’ with the melding of Black Metal vocals with the psychedelic Shoegaze sound heralded in the late 80’s and early 90’s by such bands as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.

Tonight’s nine song set which consists of mostly new songs from the new album, ‘Kodama’ is a revelation to me as I am new to the band but the more I listened to their music, the more it grew on me. Devoid of the face paint and pantomime of the classic Black Metal bands, Alcest come over very humble and appreciative to the attentive crowd, whose warmth grows throughout the set. Highlights include new songs, ‘Éclosion’ (“Hatching”) and ‘Oiseaux de proie’ (“Birds of Prey”) which display Neige’s ability to shift from the ethereal to the harsh effortlessly. Their music’s playful contrasts help create an intelligent and heartfelt outcome that is as alien as it is familiar. Sometimes contradiction can show us our breadth of knowledge and understanding is never black and white but spectrums of colour that can bleed into each to form more complex hues.

MONO are equally spirited in their approach to creating music. Essentially they are an experimental Rock band but within that context they display influences as disparate as Beethoven and the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine in creating an intensely emotive performance. They take the stage to the strains of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and break immediately into ‘Ashes In The Snow’ from their 2009 album, ‘Hymn To The Immortal’. Drummer Yasunori Takada and Bassist Tamaki Kunishi play intertwining melodies on their glockenspiels as Guitarists Takaakira “Taka” Goto and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu remain seated, working their magic until the music swells into a massive crescendo.

‘Death In Rebirth’, the opening track to their new album, ‘Requiem For Hell’ is next and it begins again. The cyclic nature of their songwriting is predictable but never fails to be compelling. Takada’s drumming is exceptional as the glue holding it all together along with the ever swaying Kunishi’s bass playing, giving room for both Taka and Yoda to let the guitar melodies drip languidly from their fingertips. Next a potent heady version of ‘Dream Odyssey’ from their 2012 album, ‘For My Parents’ conjures the Beethoven influence as Kinisha moves from Bass to Piano leading the song’s melody and tempo as the rest of the band build the tension around her.

‘Pure As Snow (Trails Of The Winter Storm)’ turns out to be a highlight as the delicate intro shift into a noisy, whirlwind of feedback and dissonance with Taka raises himself from his seat to squeeze every bit of emotion from his upturned guitar. ‘Recoil, Ignite’ from their 2014 album, ‘Rays Of Darkness’ follows with some incredibly hectic moments that get the hairs on your arms standing to attention. Final song, ‘Requim For Hell’ ends the set with it’s 18 minutes of majestic epicness, It’s mesmerising to behold how tight this band’s dynamics are.

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Check out Alcest’s website here https://www.alcest-music.com/

Check out MONO’s website here https://www.monoofjapan.com/en/

All words by Philip Allen. More writing by Philip on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Philip tweets as @ltranger.

All photos by Michael Brumby. Take a look at his work here https://michaelbrumbyphotography.wordpress.com/

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