Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Cepheide - Les échappées (2021)

I was somewhat impressed with the 19+ minute opus "Lucide" that I had heard off Cepheide's split with Time Lurker a couple years ago, but even that would not prepare me for the instantly transformative material that comprises this sophomore full-length Les échappées. The product of just one musician (Gaetan), this is one of the darker, denser and arguably more cluttered approaches I've heard towards the atmospheric (or I dare say 'blackgaze'-adjacent) end of the black metal medium, but it's also lush, captivating escapism which showers the listener in shades of cold, warmth, unnerving hostility and melodic beauty. Essentially you are taking those bedrock elements of post-black and then throttling them with a dimmer, more aggressive style chocked with blast beats, guitars that are both consonant and dissonant as they stream atmospheres across the oblique nightscape of this musician's imagination.

I also loved how the vocals were implemented, they are quite frightening...perhaps if you were to focus in on them they'd be your typical sorts of rasps or grunts for the genre, but the way Gaetan just floats them against the mix so that they almost hover in the backdrop creates the impression of traverse through a tortured asylum where the inmates' manic emotions are being splattered all over the walls. This can certainly become a claustrophobic experience, but at the same time the material is rooted well enough into the traditional BM style that you have an out once those tremolo picked guitars and chords rocket right into the vaulted ceiling of the recording. I realize some might find the work a bit noisier than it needs to be, a trifle calamitous, but it all meshes together so well into this tortured, formidable expression that hits my ears like a wall of sorrows and shadows. It does have a few segues here or there where the haunting and cloying savagery cedes to something sparser and simpler, but it's all leading towards the next beautiful rush.

In a world so obsessed with bands like a Deafheaven or Wolves in the Throne Room, it would nice to see some of these more fringe acts like Cepheide get more attention, because frankly the escapism I feel here exceeds a lot of such better-known acts while never carrying that same burden of sounding trendy or inauthentic. Les échappées is a pretty wonderful freak-out of an album, and while a few areas might get a little samey, he's always throwing a few surprises in there, like the percussion and warped surfy space guitars in "L'Ivresse", to remind us of just how wide a net he's able to cast with his ideas. A very cool project that is worth hearing and worth following into the future.

Verdict: Win [8.5/10]


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