The Vinyl Verdict – Alcest, Kodama Deluxe 3LP Box
Blackgaze genre-pioneers Alcest are back with their latest release, Kodama, a miraculous return that combines hints of their old sound with the more melodic direction they pursued with their 2014 release, Shelter. It’s a beautiful album that manages to capture a wide variety of emotion from start to finish. It might even be my favorite release of the year, narrowly beating out a couple other records for the #1 spot. Album of the year talks won’t be happening for a bit longer, but I think it’s fitting that the serious contender for my favorite album of 2016 is also one of the best vinyl releases of 2016.
For this edition of The Vinyl Verdict we’re going to be looking at Alcest’s Deluxe 3 LP Box Clear release for Kodama. The set comes with vinyl etching, six art prints, and a lyric sheet. It’s limited to 777 copies with 200 appearing in black, 200 clear, 200 clear/black marble, and 177 in magenta/black marble. There is also a “Complete Kodama Box” edition featuring 4xLP, two vinyl etchings, a bonus track, a hardcover book featuring liner notes and lyric translations, as well as everything listed in the aforementioned 3 LP box set. That release is also limited to 777 with the same color splits as the 3 LP Box release. Both of these editions can be found exclusively on the Prophecy store, and retail for €39.99 (around $43.00 US). In addition, there is a standard black single LP release available at a variety of retailers for $19.99.
Kodama’s boxed presentation is unique. It’s not a traditional sleeve, but rather a proper box enclosure created out of durable cardboard that feels tough. The cover artwork is subtle and features the album’s name painted in gold that streaks across the purple background as flowers inspired by traditional Japanese ukiyo-e adorn the left side of the cover. The back is minimalistic and prominently displays two Japanese characters and the Prophecy logo.
Opening the lid reveals the included prints all drawn in the style of ukiyo-e and printed on thick, durable, matte sheets. The artwork in each print is spectacular, and rather than describing each piece in detail I’ll include pictures of the prints below this paragraph so you can be your own judge. That being said, I’m seriously considering getting a few of these prints framed, that’s how much I love them. Take that as you will.
The vinyl itself is buried under the prints and made of a weight 190g virgin wax. “But Chain, there are only six songs on the entire album, why are there 3 LPs?” Each LP, except for the last — which contains one main track plus a short outro and features a beautiful vinyl etching on the back — houses one track on each side. This is an audiophile set. As a result, the quality of sound is unbelievable, giving way to a masterpiece of recording and mixing which is immediately apparent the second the needle hits the wax. It’s rare that listening experiences like this come along, and they should be praised when they do. Labels need to take chances and release more special editions like this.
Kodama‘s tracklist is as follows:
Je Suis D’ailleurs
Oiseaux De Proie
Playthroughs of the album revealed no noticeable noise. I’ve listened to this release more times than I care to admit at this point, and I’ve not heard so much as a pop during any of them. If anything, I feel like each successive listen seems to get warmer, but that’s probably just in my head. It just sounds so damn good.
Kodama’s dynamic range is all over the place. At its lowest I found it to be scoring around an 8, while its highest point reached 16, the greatest peak I’ve come across in any of my reviews this year. The album averages at 12, which is about on par with the group’s last release.
This really might be the best vinyl release of the year. We’ve still got another month or so to go, so I don’t want to put an official stamp on it quite yet, but unless something better falls into my lap between now and January I think this will be the clear winner. Kodama is a fantastic release in and of itself, but when coupled with such collector fanfare this box set blows a lot of other releases out of the water. It’s guaranteed to remain a part of my regular rotation for a long time, and I’m sure it will be the same for you.