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Music Review

Alcest maximizes moody mix at Brighton Music Hall

When the French musician Neige launched his project Alcest 15 years ago, he was working in the idiom of black metal — crushing guitars and rapid-fire drums, dragged along by guttural screams. But over time, as band members rotated in and out, the darkness cracked, allowing light to slowly seep in; Alcest’s first full-length, 2007’s “Souvenirs d’Autre Monde,” tempered its more extreme moments with gently bobbing rhythms and cavernous riffs that brought to mind shoegaze, the reverb-and-distortion-heavy brand of rock associated with British acts like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.

In 2014 Alcest — Neige and the percussionist Winterhalter — released “Shelter,” which showed that the crack had fully parted. It’s a gorgeous album with intricate guitar textures and singing from Neige that adds a soothing gravity to the sky-scraping riffs. But as Alcest showed on Monday night in front of a rapt audience at Brighton Music Hall, the group knows how to employ tricks from its former musical idiom of choice for maximum effect.


Smashing Pumpkins’ chiming “Today” on the P.A. gave way to “Wings,” the opening track of “Shelter,” as Alcest took the stage. The song’s whirlwind of voices and keyboards sets the tone for an album about finding refuge. Alcest depicts that refuge through intricate playing and songs that fold in on themselves, with movements that eventually resolve into drones reminiscent of satisfied sighs. A lineup rounded out to four pieces provided a jolt; while guitars remained bright, the rhythm section on songs like the swaying “L’eveil des muses” and shape-shifting “Écailles de lune, Pt. 1” reminded the audience of Alcest’s origins, with floor-rumbling bass and steadily pummeling drums.

Monday’s set list touched on all four of Alcest’s albums, and while material from “Shelter” definitely had more sunlight radiating from it, the other songs showcased Alcest’s effective blending of light and dark, of low and high end. Neige was a commanding presence, filled with gratitude that peaked when he demurely replied, “Thank you” to an audience member who had yelled “You can’t leave!” at the encore’s outset. The band, unfortunately, did eventually have to leave — tour is a harsh mistress — but not before it pulled out the luminous “Délivrance,” a glacial, somber track that eventually resolved into silence.


Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.