Les Discrets – Septembre et ses dernières Pensées
Rating: 3.0/5.0 – A solid, if inconsistent, debut.
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: lesdiscrets.com/ | myspace.com/lesdiscrets
Release Date: EU: 29.03.2010 | US: 05.04.2010
It would appear that now defunct, scene-polarising French black metal troupe Amesoeurs have another project place under their name, this time in the form of bassist Fursey Treyssier’s Les Discrets; a post rock-meets-shoegaze project that still has that very noticeable smell of metal that Amesoeurs and it’s sibling project Alcest gave rise to.
As with Alcest, comparisons will immediately be drawn to Amesoeurs and opinions will rage about whether this solo effort is better or worse than its “parent band”. I use the term “parent band” loosely, since both Alcest and Les Discrets existed long before Amesoeurs, but the feeling I get from the latter is that it represents a grand culmination of ideas that released its children on to the world, both of whom have chosen to run in vastly different directions.
Septembre et ses dernières Pensées is the band’s debut release and I feel the first thing that must be said, that will raise a lot of Angry Metal Eyebrows, is that Les Discrets is not a metal band. There are no harsh vocals, cascades of furious blast beats or ultra-aggressive guitar-driven musical passages that stand out and scream “Metal!”. It is a much more subdued affair of walls-of-sound and a slow ramble through Fursey’s imagination. That being said, the band still manages to display a firm grounding in metal beneath their post rock driven songs. Les Discrets bridges the gap between the post-black metal stylings of Amesouers and the more atmospheric shoegaze of Alcest, blending both genres into a new, but coherent, and enjoyable sound.
Septembre et ses dernières Pensées begins innocently enough with an atmospheric introduction that draws the listener in and begins to shape Fursey’s world. The cover art and liner notes prove very evocative when combined with the music that creates the soundtrack to the stark, yet beautiful images in the booklet. After the brief introduction, we are immediately launched into “L’échappée”, easily the flagship track of the album. The track is catchy and creates a strong, dreamlike atmosphere with a heavily textured wall of sound beneath Fursey’s warm, chant-like vocals.
The next track, “Les Feuilles de l’Olivier” is probably the most metal-oriented track on the album. Heavily distorted guitars and thick drums are complimented by a peaceful, clean guitar that that keeps the shoegaze element alive. I should mention here that there is heavy use of clean guitars throughout the album that carries a signature sound from track to track, stopping atmospheric tracks from becoming soundscapes and keeping the faster passages away from becoming pure black metal.
We are then taken to “Song for Mountains”, a track that appeared in demo form on the split with Alcest. The clean guitar once again provides grounding, while tremelo picked guitars, reminiscent of Mono or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, build a wave of noise that completely envelops the listener. The presence of the opening theme of this track along with its structure and those of the previous songs is important to note at this point, because it is after the intimate and folkish, yet unremarkable “Sur les Quais” and the Alcest/Amesouers sounding “Effet de nuit” that the wheels start to come off.
At the end of “Effet de nuit” we are presented with a superfluous guitar piece that leads into the title track. It is at this point that the album as a cohesive unit loses its way. Until now the music has not deviated much from traditional rock song structure. The typical verse-chorus-verse-bridge-etc. arrangements have made the songs catchy and memorable, and now we are presented with a spoken word introduction into a title track that wanders about the dreamy atmosphere but never really goes anywhere. I am in no way adverse to post rock soundscapes or variety in an album, but it is at this point that the hypnotic spell woven of the previous tracks is broken – and I was left wondering why the dream ended so abruptly.
The remaining songs, including an outro of sorts seem to just meander about aimlessly, lacking the magic that the album started with. There is a vague nod to Alcest in some of the riffs and chords used, but they ultimately lead nowhere. The traditional song structure has been forsaken in favour of free-flowing tracks that roll in and out of shoegaze and metal without being held together by a dominant hook. Even the instrumental “Svipdagr & Freyja” just feels like two loosely pieced together ideas and the closing bars of the outro track, “Une matinée d’hiver” would not sound out of place on an album by post rock giants, Sigur Rós. They serve as a pleasant enough farewell, but still one that still leaves the me feeling somewhat let down.
It is unfortunate that Septembre et ses dernières Pensées ends on such a low note since, up until the title track, the album felt really solid in its exploration of the black metal and shoegaze genres. In my opinion, the title track should have closed off the album instead of breaking the spell prematurely and leaving the listener lost in a sea of sounds that are not nearly as deliberate and well crafted as the opening tracks. However, these are possibly just teething pains for Les Discrets and hopefully Fursey’s future output will build upon the foundations laid by this album (they are signed for a five record deal after all).