Tag Archives: M83

M83 – Digital Shades [Vol. 1]

M83 - Digital Shades [Vol. 1]M83Digital Shades [Vol. 1] (Mute)

Named after the Messier 83 spiral galaxy, M83 take the similarly swirling undercurrents of shoegaze as channeled through a minimal digital spectrum. The idea of penning such a genre with synthetic overtones seems like a logical step for any of those one-word bands from two decades ago, but reality showed us otherwise. Most of them (Lush, Ride, Slowdrive, etc.) fell out of fashion during the run of American grunge, but it’s easy to imagine that had the genre been able to sustain itself for a while longer, those bands may have put away their guitar pedals long enough to discover they could achieve similar headspace with a keyboard and a few fingers.

M83, now reduced to sole member Anthony Gonzales, tackled that idea head-on with the first pair of M83 releases. With album three, Digital Shades [Vol. 1], he’s putting away his Creation Records collection and channeling Brian Eno with an assortment of pleasant if not entirely uneventful ambient exercises.

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M83 – Before The Dawn Heals Us

M83Before The Dawn Heals Us (Mute)

It’s hard to objectively write about a piece of music when you share an intimate moment with it. Suddenly, it’s gone from a loosely related but detached carry-on to a link, as miniscule a piece as it may be, on the chain that spans your life—and from that moment on, no matter how hard you try, it becomes a matter of the heart instead of a matter of the head. Without going into the boring details, it goes without saying that I had such a moment with M83’s Before The Dawn Heals Us.

Count me under one of the crowd that thought Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts was, while undoubtedly skillful and well-developed, just a tad boring. Its imagery was powerful and undeniable—the photo on the album’s cover, by the way, is fucking perfect for the extravagantly painted scenes within the comforting drones and cavernous dynamics of the group’s highly-touted debut. But, c’mon, if I listened to it in my car I’d fall asleep behind the wheel. Before The Dawn Heals Us is far more spacious and astral—the earthy tones on M83’s debut are now replaced by fragments of the whole which catapult across the night sky, leaving a firey trail to burn across the millions of stars illuminating the albums more energetic sound. There are vocals now, and actual instruments, too, meaning the group has an even greater arsenal of palettes with which to craft these songs. They’re far looser then before, but as dynamic as ever. When a group can handle the task of breaking free from the brute of “*” and go, only a couple of songs later, to the UFO-club-hit “Can’t Stop” without missing a beat, they’re at their riskiest and most creative. It’s a quality that suits M83—they tackle the jumps seamlessly.

The idea of two minutes of fireworks isn’t nearly as hokey as it looks on paper (screen?), the album bears the same explosive grandeur as our nation’s favorite birthday suit. When the music stops, and the actual fireworks begin to go off, it doesn’t sound out of place at all. Just another trick that other electronic groups couldn’t pull off as well.

I took off my headphones and looked down, from the heavens, at my watch. It was 4 A.M. and I was in the woods. I walked back to where some of the others were sitting around a fire. As I was making my way, I couldn’t help but think about how great those moments are when you can listen to an album in the exact setting it was created to be heard in. It was beautiful.