Alternative music reviews

M83

0078h Dec 2003

Taken from the album Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts this is one of the many highlights. It begins with a single rich synth note. The lower register notes come in along with drums. Pianobells over the top and then female vocal samples speak but you can't make out the words Ė but the textures are almost like that 'fluffy clouds' song but twisted and treated and four hundred times less obvious. The end is sudden and unexpected. There are no easy options taken.

The swirling synth is reminiscent of the good old days of the Mellotron without the tuning problems that old instrument had). This straddles the guitar music/electronic dance divide so delicately because M83 use rougher textures that appeal to the indie side and add some of the atmospheres from dance. But genre is pretty irrelevant here Ė recent Mogwai is a valid comparison and also a development of European synth music from the last 30 years. Everything M83 touch turns to gold before exploding into a cloud of glitter. Cool or what.

Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts Sept 2003

The French duo, M83, have an album that is receiving some good critical notices. The main sound they use is a thick, swirling synth sound and multi-layered approach to the music with clever percussion. Itís a driving sound (and very good as an accompaniment to travelling in a car). I must take a trip over Salisbury Plain with this on tape because this is a musical equivalent of an intense, slowly changing landscape Ė masses of open space and desolate beauty. It also helps to allow the music to wash over you rather than just sitting down and listening.

Itís always difficult for me to describe instrumental music, no lyrics to talk about, just the stimulation of the unspoken senses. Itís has similarities to the recent Mogwai release except that it is less diverse in style and mood - but just as evocative in the emotions it wrings from your body, sometimes from the heart, sometimes the gut. There are a few times when it becomes a little too much, the final track Beauties Can Die is a bit too choral/rock symphonic for my taste.

The art of the instrumental for me has to be to more than just a lush sound, but to also be unsettling, to introduce real tension in the listener. M83 have control over the emotional impact of their sounds and rhythms. This isnít the soundtrack for a film yet to be made Ė no film could match this narrative complexity.


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