As if to compensate for the departure of collaborator Nicholas Fromageau, M83 mainstay Anthony Gonzalez pulled off the remarkable feat of making their monumental instrumental theatre even bigger. But instead of the tour around the planet evoked by "Dead Seas, Red Cities and Lost Ghosts", their third album works at a human level, playing out a melodrama of high emotions, rendered with huge, huge music. Their sounds, swathes of orchestral-sized electronics, effected guitars and breathy accented vocals, are chosen and mixed with a thoroughly modern flair. Lavished with as much warm noise and melody as possible without crumbling under its own weight, it just pulls you along in a white-knuckle ride. Instrumental rock is often called cinematic, and M83 seem to both revel in and demolish this "soundtrack for an imaginary film" cliche, grabbing the senses and imagination so instantly that it needs no implied visuals. It would be unsubtle, were their melodies not so luscious nor their production so sparkling.
Two high-energy pop dazzlers, the delirious car crash depiction "Don't Save us from the Flames" and the refreshingly youthful "Teen Angst", form the pulsing heart of the album, while moments like the distortion-drowned drum assault of "Fields Shorelines and Hunters" and the stop-start excitement of "*" maintain the thrills. With masterful control of tension and dynamics, the upbeat pieces are mingled with a series of sensual electronic symphonies. On "Farewell / Goodbye" they magnify an Air-style downtempo ballad into a massive surround-sound anthem. "Can't Stop" distils a typical 90s dance refrain into a slow-motion thrill, as if revelling in the moment. But all these big emotions are part of a thoroughly human cycle of ups and downs, rather than a parade of excess. After the cathartic Bach-tinged piano ballad "Safe", the firework display portrayed in "Let Men Burn Stars" doesn't feel like a triumphal ceremony - instead it seems to be from the point of view of a lonely observer.
The most eye-popping piece is certainly "Car Chase Terror!", based around an imaginary-movie dialogue of a mother and daughter fleeing an invisible predator. Urgent electronic pounding muffles the daughter's sobs, building a paranoid tension to the levels of Steven Moffat-penned Doctor Who, until only the sound of crickets and traffic remains. The album finale, "Lower Your Eyelids to Die With The Sun" is their most grandiose yet. Though repetitive, it expands to fill a ten minute space by gradually stripping away the symphonic padding until just its warm melody lingers deliciously.
Take the score below with the warning that you might find this album bombastic, syrupy or even tasteless, but a year after hearing it for the first time, it's firmly in my top ten of the decade.
July 19, 2008
See blog entry: WhyILoveM83 (19 Jul, 2008)