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EMI (France), 2007
Anthony Gonzalez made his name as M83 with big, wide-screen instrumental pop, lavished with effected guitars and fat electronic textures. This compilation of "ambient" material recorded at various points in his career, was reputed to reveal his stripped-down, minimal side. But minimal is relative - in this case, it just means he's taken away the guitars and drums. Just like his other work it's based around repetition of very simple tunes, with as much orchestral grandeur as possible squeezed from just one or two thick and chewy synthesiser sounds per piece. Most other reviews I've read of this have invoked Brian Eno, but it's miles away from the subtle and genuinely minimal Music for Airports, and closer to the gooey romanticism of Vangelis. The M83 high drama is just manifested in a different way here. Like the entire minute of near silence which is plonked in the middle of "Dancing Mountains", which is an extravagant gesture in itself. A daringly simple trick, but it does well to offset the sugary sentiment of the main tune. Though the deliberate retro-synth focus does seem to restrict him sometimes - like when that heavily chorused synth piano takes the lead. Sure, it's called "Digital Shades", but I'd have forgiven him for sneaking in a real, rich and warm grand piano here.
June 29, 2008