Album Review: Sylvaine – “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”

Sylvaine - Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone

Every so often you come across an album draped in vivid details and haunting melodies that it makes you forget what you were doing.  Those are the kinds of albums that make you miss your exit when driving or forget where you were going all together.  The introspective listens on a cold winters day while drinking coffee (or whiskey) type albums.  Sylvaine’s third full length album, Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone, is one of those albums.

Formed in 2013, Sylvaine is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Kathrine Shepard.  Since the band’s inception she has created a buzz with Sylvaine. Known for her duality of beautiful guitar shoe gaze mixed with haunting clean vocal delivery and harsh elements of black metal, Shepard has been expanding her palette further and further with each album.  With Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone Shepard finds her mark and is proof positive of her place among her contemporaries.

It took me multiple spins of Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone to discover the subtle details underneath the veneer.  In doing so, I found a rich tapestry of sonic soundscapes.  Opening track “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” begins with a simple bass and drum build up that is interwoven with beautiful post rock guitar lines and new age style vocals that weave themselves around the music like a cathartic mist rolling over the hills.  “Morklagt” plays out as a more traditional verse / chorus track that injects a kick of black metal mid-way through and though jarring, this added element helps propel the song so that when it comes back to playing all things clean and beautiful it feels like a journey.

Though the more raucous elements of Sylvaine aren’t goat cult black metal, they are important to the dichotomy created by Shepard.  They help propel moments of Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone and keep it from being stuck in a single speed.  Though it could be argued the harsher parts of the music may not work, I would say it’s the juxtaposition of these more jarring elements that make the true diamonds of Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone shine.  “Severance” is probably the best example of this duality on the album, with its seamless transitions from calm to storm, bringing to mind what would happen if Burzum melded with My Bloody Valentine and Dead Can Dance.


Just to touch on the subject, Sylvaine does have a kinship to Alcest in sound and overall aesthetic – hell, Neige even contributes some drums to Atoms Aligned.  Sure the camaraderie is there and sound wise comparisons can be made, but you would be doing a disservice to yourself as a listener to simply pass Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone as a carbon copy.  Shepard’s sonic pallet creates a unique experience that is wistful, expansive and at times absolutely stunning.  While lighter on the harsher elements, Atoms Aligned’s real strength lies in the dreamlike atmosphere it creates and expands upon throughout its 45 minute run time.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better album of its kind.

– J. Coleman

Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone is available now on Season of Mist. For more information on Sylvaine, visit their official website.

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