Surprisingly, I’ve never shared the story of how I got into M83, so let’s start there. Back in 2005, the world of music was a simple place, with the post-punk revival reaching its apogee. I got my hands on the Japanese edition of Bloc Party’s debut, Silent Alarm, which came with three remixes tacked on at the end. The final one was M83’s remix of “Pioneers”, and it looked like it was over fourteen minutes long. In fact, it was less than six, but the way the CD was sequenced, the bonus-bonus song, “Every Time is the Last Time” got shoved into the same track as the remix, with a great big silence in between just for its own self-gratification. My bad.
Whether or no, the remix was sublime, and I rushed instantly to the shops to get my hands on more of this wonderful music. Dead Cities, Read Seas & Lost Ghosts was what I bought, and I couldn’t believe my luck. Fifteen-years old, and I was being treated to an electronic reinvention of My Bloody Valentine’s seminal shoegaze, with alternately woozy and then wailing synths set against pattering drum machines. It felt like the unfolding of the universe was being screened in my living room, in high definition, in a roller-disco.
Fast forward six years, and M83 have lost a founding member, gained a revolving cast of musicians with ultra-French names (Loïc, Pierre-Marie, Yann), and given birth to three more albums. Two of them, including the newest, which will see release next month, manage to be even more epic and imperious than Dead Cities… but, alas, that doesn’t necessarily make them better than that album. 2008’s Saturdays=Youth was a unique release, given the albums on either side of it. Real songs, harking back to a distinct aesthetic (the films of John Hughes), with attention paid to the overall dynamic of the album, to prevent it sounding like an unstoppable onslaught of exquisite noise.
The album before Saturdays=Youth was Before The Dawn Heals Us, and it is every bit as noirish as its title and artwork suggest. Vangelis might have turned down some of the arrangements for being too ostentatious, but the Blade Runner worship survives intact. Made-up film dialogue populates interstitial sequences, and searing guitars collide with the familiar template.
And now, or at least very soon, we have Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which is billed by its creator, Anthony Gonzalez, as being a stylistic cumulation of everything the outfit has made to date. Expect fireworks. And the birth and death of the day. And a futuristic love story hurried on by untamed oscillators and arpeggiators. Certainly, the opening two tracks, previewed in advance of the album, lend weight to Gonzalez’s suggestion. “Intro”, which features timely interjections from the unique vocal talent of Nika Roza Danilova (a.k.a. Zola Jesus), is an appropriate manifesto for the album, a warp-speed tour of M83’s career augmented by an Arcade Fire-aping choral finale. From its blissed-out embers comes the screaming, thumping “Midnight City”, which, sad to say, foregrounds Gonzalez’s more reedy pipes, which resemble a hollowed-out Dave Gahan. Stylistically, the song is a glorious mess, the National-style brass fanfare at the end adding to the discord. But it works… just.
But I can’t help but fear for the rest of the album—someone’s face could end up splattered in all that unbridled messiness.