M83: Before the Dawn Heals Us

Before the Dawn Heals Us


The first thing you notice about M83's new record is the sense of triumph. The triumph is ringing bells: panoramic shots of the Himalayas, montages of dramatic animal rescue from the PAX channel's Amazing Pets, commercials in which unencumbered white men cruise the autobahn in cobalt-blue sports cars. Then there's a second wave of murky, subconscious recognition. You know this triumphant music. But where have you last heard this cascade of majesty? When was the last time a synthesizer made you believe, really believe? And then it comes to you--a slo-mo of a beach--no, no, not the Phil Collins video for "Against The Odds." Wait.... It's two men running.... Yes! It's Vangelis's theme from Chariots of Fire.

Before you shudder and barf into your mouth, let me clarify, or perhaps further confuse, with an instrumental-synthesizer-act-with-band-name/old-metal-band analogy: M83 is to Vangelis what Metallica is to Stryper. Anthony Gonzales, who dwells in "the seaside town" (hey, the bio mentions it three times, I figure it's important!) of Antibes, France, sounds like he's trying to destroy life on Earth as we know it through the multitracking of keyboard parts. They fuzz up and hammer down, sizzle and radiate like lava down the mount, they fake you out with some titanium frost--you get a line of fey, whispered male vocals--then come back in as if to punish you for falling for the trick. Their digital ash obliterates its digital urn entirely, giving us a wall of noise unparalleled since My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.

There are also some other instruments involved (bass, guitar, possibly horns) but other than the live drums--which are U.K.-techno-steeped, feel-good-in-the-club beats set to hardcore-band stun--but it's impossible to distinguish if it's an organic instrument arcing and scorching the track or some hyper-processed keyboard magic reeling you in. In contrast to, erm, most every band going these days, M83 doesn't use its keyboards as some wink-wink-nudge-nudge Reagan-era "remember when?" signifier. No, M83 is content to use its synths to herald the coming apocalypse from some majestic mountaintop. Or rather, a seaside town.

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