Sylvaine – Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone (Season of Mist)

Sunday, 4th November 2018
Rating: 9/10

Nostalgia and the seeming gravity that binds humanity to it is a fascinating, frustrating thing. In this digital age where everything is captured digitally very little is ever allowed to really be forgotten and so we spend a lot of our time looking back (given the cancerous aspect of meme culture or the resurgence of populism the world over), it’s usually for the worse.

The rub, as ever, lies in the execution and here, much like with her previous album Wistful, the execution makes all the difference. Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone is a look down leaf-strewn streets at a school you once attended, a house you once lived in, or a place you knew but no longer do. The longing for something, like as not an impression of something far greater than the thing ever really was, but a real longing all the same.

That longing is the essence of the songs on Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone, an album very much born to the Post idea in things (and fortunately, its impact is very real). Shimmering waves of guitar wash over every track, blanketed (or pierced) by Sylvaine’s voice and joined at times by forays into blackened realms anchored by simple, effective blastbeats. The marriage not an even split, the warm waves of guitar and voice that constitute the most of “Mørklagt” envelope the darkness it holds in its center. In large park the impact of the blackened elements in Sylvaine’s music has always been heightened by its limited use (“In The Wake of Moments Passed By” remains my own favorite from Wistful), though they are more frequent this time around.

Sylvaine, though a solo artist, is joined here again by members of Alcest (sharing drum duties), though as ever the kinship with the band extends to more than just assisting in recording. Initial single “Abeyance” shares much in common with Shelter and in no small part is the most direct item to be found, even as it surges with harsh vocals after its midpoint. The songs here build and build only to crash out, whether into ringing and empty space or with blackened passages careening by.

And there is no shame in that, nor in anything else on display on Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone. These songs are elegant and fragile expressions of a being and that being is Sylvaine: she is the source of gravity that binds all the elements together. They extol a majesty and an intimacy that is difficult to imagine possible but here they are. Even though melancholy appears to win the day (“L’Appel du Vide” and its striking similarity to “Sur l’Océan de Fer”), warmth remains in the silence left.

Wistful came close to seizing my album of the year in 2016 (it mounted the only legitimate contest against The Black Queen). Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone is even better, both in its immediate, visceral impact and what will no doubt be the many secrets divined from it with repeat listens over time. No doubt the notice is there at the number of times Wistful has been mentioned in this review and that shouldn’t be taken as a negative. The two albums, while not the same, are built of the same common components and speak the same language. That language, unsurprisingly, remains a beautiful one- and less surprising is the beauty showcased by Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone in expressing it.

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