Le Secret


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Le Secret Review

by Thom Jurek

After six years, the French group Alcest's now legendary Le Secret EP their first foray into what is now commonly known as "shoegaze metal," gets re-recorded and re-released with the original EP in tow, creating a very unique, and beautifully unsettling 54-minute listening experience. The question of "why re-record a classic?" is answered by Neige -- who sang and played all of the instruments on the original: "I was never really satisfied with the original production on it." In hearing the new versions of "Le Secret" and "Élévation," it's easy to hear why. Though he followed the arrangements almost to the letter, Neige did employ a collaborator in drummer Winterhalter here, who is more proficient on the kit. The fidelity -- made possible by a bigger recording budget -- is infinitely better. This new version is more spacious and dynamic: it sonically conveys the seductive beauty and open-sky sense of awe that written language cannot communicate. His initial intention was to musically communicate the actual memory of the deep, nearly spiritual childhood experience of an "elusive but brilliant 'Land of Light,'" a world that lies, paradoxically, just outside the realm of the human body's five senses of perception. With both versions of the EP here where they can be compared, it's easy to hear slight differences: silences are more present, drums more dramatic, the bird-like sounds near the conclusion of the title track, or the choir in "Élévation," that enters earlier in the piece, add to this already potent work. When Neige begins to scream his lyrics in the latter cut, one can actually hear now that his are the cries of ecstasy, not mourning (as they were originally perceived by critics). They evoke the vastness at the heart of the experience he is conveying. The excellent double-time drumming by Winterhalter in the middle section of "Élévation" takes it over the edge into another realm, just before Neige's guitar hammers on, and ecstatically strummed power chords re-enter the fray. In sum, no matter which version of Le Secret you prefer, it remains a very special record, as it lays out in total the first aural manifesto that all the work of Alcest to date was based upon, and shows just how far apart the unit is, in content and form, from other shoegaze metal acts. This is the door to a powerful, poetic, unsettling world of bliss that still challenges the sense of hearing even as it delights.

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