Play with Your Music – Module 1: Analyse your favourite tune and share it

I’m currently taking a 6-week open online course in mixing and remixing music, called Play With Your Music. The first’s week assignment is to describe the sonic landscape of a track I like.

Why I’ve chosen this track: Alcest is one of my favourite bands, if not my favourite. Alcest’s music sounds graceful, elegiac and transcendent. It feels like it’s coming from a context beyond every-day worries, concerns and feelings.

I’ve chosen a track from Alcest’s second album, Écailles de lune, called Sur l’océan couleur de fer. I particularly like its sorrowful and slightly mysterious lyrics (they work better in French, but I’ve pasted a translation below). I think the track is about 30% longer than it needs to be, but I still really like it.


On The Iron-Coloured Ocean

On the iron-coloured ocean
Cried an immense choir
And those long screams whose insanity
Seem to pierce through Hell

And then death and silence,
Rising just like a black wall
…Sometimes, in the distance, could be seen
A swaying fire

Translation from lyrics translate.

The instruments and their location in the mix:

The main instrument is a slightly shimmering, mellow clean, electric guitar, played gently.

Just behind it in the mix sit the distant, tranquil, male vocals; wavering slightly but with some lovely sustain and slight vibrato on these longer notes.

There are other instruments too – a smooth, firm and unobtrusive bass guitar part in the centre of the mix, additional guitar and vocal parts in left and right channels, vocal harmonies, an acoustic guitar, backing vocals later and a symbol – but the track is defined by this interplay of vocal and guitar over the bass. The parts where the guitar climbs up one channel, and the vocals climb up another, and the two intertwine, are particularly pretty.

I enjoyed this exercise, and it’s helped me to be more attentive to what I’m listening to. I hadn’t noticed the acoustic guitar that is used towards the end of the track, for example.