LIVE REVIEW: Alcest, Birds In Row, Kælan Mikla, FORM Space, Cluj-Napoca, 24/02/2020
Last year French blackgaze act Alcest released their latest album, Spiritual Instinct and recently returned to Romania to promote the effort. Last time they were here was in 2019, they were one of the bands that played at the ARTmania Festival, so their Romanian fans were more than happy to see them return after such a short time. Joining them on this tour are Birds in Row and Kælan Mikla.
First to take the stage were the latter of the two, Kælan Mikla, from Reykjavik, their name is Icelandic for “The Lady of the Cold”. An all-female trio, they start playing their brand of synthwave/no-wave/darkwave/synth-punk music, while their singer and frontwoman, Laufey Soffía, lights up a stick of incense, waving it in the air. Their latest release was 2018’s Nótt Eftir Nótt, and they begin their set with its opening track, Gandreið. To an ear that wasn’t familiarised with this style of music, Soffía’s high, shrill screaming seemed to drastically contrast the backing sounds of Margrét Rósa’s thumping bass and Sólveig Matthildur’s synths, thus resulting in a very unpleasant way to start the evening. Making their way through their 45-minute show, playing tracks from the aforementioned Nótt Eftir Nótt and the self-titled debut release Kælan Mikla, they end their set with the track Nótt Eftir Nótt and take a bow. Next, please! 5/10.
After a short break, the French hardcore punk act Birds In Row are up – yet another three-piece, funnily enough. Their intense energy is immediately felt throughout the venue, as they launch into We Count So We Don’t Have to Listen. What makes them so much more enjoyable than Kælan Mikla is that, once the music starts, you expect the vocals to be screamed, and most importantly, they actually fit with the accompanying instruments. Another interesting factor of the band is that they cut their faces out of promotional photos, and they only refer to themselves by their initials – their lead vocalist and guitarist is B, Q handles bass duties and some occasional vocals, and T bangs away on the drums.
“These days, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to the people we see on social media and think that ‘we’re not as happy as they are’”, B says in-between songs. “This is false. Those are all single moments in those people’s lives. You’re all smart, you’re all beautiful, you all enjoy listening to this type of music, so take care of yourselves and don’t think any less of yourselves”, he says, concluding his speech. They end with You, Me & The Violence, and thus their surprisingly enjoyable set is done. One more band left now! 7.5/10
Another break later, it is finally time for Alcest to hit the stage. They come out one by one and start with Spiritual Instinct opener Les Jardins de Minuit. Throughout the one hour and 15-minute long set, they end up playing most of the aforementioned record, as they follow up with first single Protection, while later playing Sapphire and Le Miroir. Frontman Neige & Co. are on top form here, as they blaze through their catalogue effortlessly, switching from calm vocals and soothing instrumentals in songs such as Autre Temps, to brutal black metal screams and relentless drums and guitars in other songs such as Écailles de Lune, Pt. 2.
Interestingly enough, while drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre has been an official member of Alcest since 2009, guitarist and vocalist Pierre “Zero” Corson and bassist Indria Saray remain only live members since 2010. Having said that, the band is firing on all cylinders at all times, so they surely must be happy with their respective roles – they certainly look that way.
Finishing their main set with the song Kodama from the 2016 release of the same name, they leave the stage for a brief moment, leaving the audience longing for more. They happily oblige, returning to play two more songs, Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles and Délivrance. Neige thanks the audience, expressing his gratitude for their ongoing support, and with that, the show is over. If you enjoy Alcest’s music and wish to see them live, then there is no better time as the present. Merci beaucoup, Neige! 9.5/10
Written by: Florin Petrut