The flowers of Asphodèle may have only just bloomed but one look at the cast list of this brand-new French band was all I needed to grab the album and put it on my review pile. For a start we have Audrey Sylvain whose vocals in the wonderful Amesoeurs literally melted my heart her work with both Neige of Alcest and Tim Yatras in Germ just too fleeting and needing her to definitely get creative with some new music. Also included we have members of Au Champ des Morts including drummer Wilheim and guitarist Stéphane Bayle and several other artists who we will come to in turn. One play in on this and I was hooked by the merging of post black metal, Indie guitar music, post punk and of course the vocals and despite the days in the title being pale, mine have been warmed up and this one has left me positively glowing.
After the sonata of the opening ‘Candide’ we gallop into the short nightly hugs of ‘De brèves étreintes nocturnes.’ The pace is frantic and things have a bit of a Lifelover feel about them and as Audrey’s voice speaks in the language of love itself, a shiver runs down the spine. Obviously not speaking French I am slightly lost but I couldn’t imagine this being vocalised in any other way. There are male vocals too here courtesy of main song writer and pianist Spellbound from Aorlac and his contributions are not to be overlooked in the slightest. Nor should those of bassist Christian Larsson ex of Shining Sweden among many others. He adds a cold shivering instrumental line and combined with Spellbound’s indignant roars we get a sudden moment reminiscent of them in all their glory. The counterpoise of masculinity and femininity however is a line perfectly straddled and we really get the best of both worlds here with a feel of everything from sugar laden pop to DSBM. It has to be said this is a fantastic song.
Luckily there are plenty more to back it up. The title number tumbles and drifts like a leaf caught in a breeze, there’s plenty of motion and gorgeous harmony to carry it off and some sudden turbulent passages allowing the drums to thickly roll and melody to infect. Add in some lush acoustic guitarwork calming with a delicate floating passage and some mysterious sampled speech and the whole effect is quite sublime. There’s plenty of moments to bounce along, caught in the spiralling power of songs such as ‘Gueules crasses’ the dirty jaws of Spellbound chomping at the bit tempered by the sheer poeticism of Audrey’s vocals and the overall effect is really quite dramatic. The ‘Nitide’ calms the tempest and we gaze into the cold breath hanging in the air and frost sparkling on the ground with what is essentially a ballad before a long-elongated scream has us skidding along the frozen path. Everything is perfectly constructed here and the musicianship is wonderful. One has to wonder about the possibility of the band playing live, to date they have one show under belts in France on a night of LADLO hosted bands, so hopefully this could well be a possibility in the future.
Penultimate number ‘Réminiscences’ has me doing just that to nights spent listening to John Peel on the radio as it really harks back to the Indie, jangle, pop and rock of the era and is a frankly wonderful song citing everything from the Pixies to the Primitives in the process. Audrey gets her riot grrrl on too as we swing from the sugary to pure savagery. With final number ‘Décembre’ hitting a blizzard this is an album to draw the curtains to, light a big fire and go into hibernation with. Asphodèle have hit the ground running here with a remarkable debut album more than living up to what I had hoped for prior to listening to a single note of it. Pretty much an essential release for walking in a winter wonderland.
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)