Alternine are a French, female fronted alternative rock band with a love of bands such as Tool, A Perfect Circle and The Mars Volta (the latter of which comes through most strongly on this five track EP). With a strong visual identity (see the EP cover at the top of this post) which the band have worked hard to develop, it would seem that Alternine have much to offer, even on the somewhat overcrowded market of the modern world.
Despite the modern (well –ish) reference points of APC and The Mars Volta, Alternine actually hail back to an earlier era. Readers of a certain age may remember the Bob Rock produced ‘Eight Arms to hold you’ by Veruca Salt or the work of Belly, the Breeders and their ilk and it is here that you’ll most readily find the roots of Alternine, the angular guitars of ‘Crystal shards’ notwithstanding. Indeed, the first impression of ‘crystal shards’ is how skeletal the sound is. This is not a mix brimming over with rich, hot guitars, rather the band have opted instead for the treble-laden sound so beloved of those 90s indie bands mentioned above. Laetitia Jehanno has a strong vocal style that does indeed reference Maynard James Keenan, particularly when she introduces grit into her tone, although the sound is largely her own. ‘Beneath the sun’ with its syncopated beat and echoing guitar line is where those Veruca Salt references really come to play, with Letitia crooning the vocal line like a lost waif, seemingly adrift but with a hard edge that suggests she’s nowhere near as fragile as she sounds. The music, meanwhile, is an interestingly subdued mix that recalls (with a great sense of nostalgia) bands that briefly dominated the indie scene before disappearing as the press found a new toy to play with.
So, having got a handle on the sound, things suddenly take a turn for the sinister, the band apparently having taken a love to early Bjork and How to Destroy Angels, as a massive distorted bass line stalks out of the speakers over looped and distorted drums for ‘Hollow’. It’s a great track, interesting, original and the highlight of this all-too-brief EP. ‘Salvya’, in contrast, is as refreshing as the rain after a dry spell, the rippling piano contrasting nicely with thunderous power chords and a soaring chorus. It’s as if, on each track, the band are constantly challenging themselves to create something bigger and better than has gone before, and as a result the EP feels like it’s always building to the climactic track ‘dead on time’ with its shimmering guitars recalling APC’s masterpiece ‘the noose’ even whilst the pop melodies of the vocals worm their way deep into your brain. It is compelling stuff.
Mastered by the highly respected Alan Douches, and well recorded by Jean-Anaël Aubaux at Passage à Niveaux, the EP sounds as professional as you could wish, the band’s ambitious sound clearly represented throughout but it’s not the sound that will stay with you so much as the songs. Each one is a carefully constructed work that builds upon the band’s various strengths, drawing upon a deep well of musical inspiration that suggests that the band’s debut full-length will be something worth waiting for. Highly recommended for those who like their music complex, beautiful and eclectic this is an EP that is impossible to categorise but which is never dull or contrived – well worth checking out.
Did we get it right? listen here and find out!