M83 creates glistening midnight anthems
Matthew Solarski | Thursday, February 10, 2005
The night wounds. Those hours soaked in moonlight are a time of danger, of hearts broken and stolen and of countless improprieties. The night too sees its share of the better parts of the human experience, as a storied catalyst for love and exhilaration – in short, it is the ideal stage for the emotional highs and lows the daytime cannot possibly hope to contain. Graciously, music can. Under the moniker M83, French electronic artist Anthony Gonzalez has composed a scintillating symphony to the night hours, and bestowed upon it the most appropriate and gorgeous title of “Before the Dawn Heals Us.” Gonzalez begins his opus with “Moonchild,” which opens with a child reciting a poem and soon blossoms into a heavenly alternating-key chorus that sets the perfect tone for M83’s nocturnal descent. “Don’t Save Us from the Flames” then explodes with celestial guitars and pulsating keyboards. These disappear into a hush so that Gonzalez can deliver a lyrical sketch of an automobile accident, and erupt once again to punctuate the epic melodrama.M83 raises the emotional ante even more a few tracks later with an untitled number denoted simply by an asterisk that contains all the fiery intensity of a sunburst. One cannot help but marvel the cosmic energy in these songs comes from one little man and his keyboards. Listening to the waves of electronics and crescendos, one has the sensation of soaring high above the night-lit metropolis depicted on the album’s exquisite cover.Interspersed with the characteristically dynamic songs are slow-burning interludes and more ethereal material, including the piano-centered ballad “Safe,” perhaps the record’s most conventional song, which ends by dissolving into the pop-fizzle of distant fireworks (a marvelous aural spectacle for the listener with headphones). M83 made a splash with the critically-acclaimed “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts,” released domestically in 2004, which drew considerable accolades and even more “My Bloody Valentine” comparisons. While maintaining the cinematic grandeur of that landmark, M83 has also diversified his sound with “Before the Dawn” and emerged with a fuller record that carries the listener through richer cadences. However, Not all of M83’s sonic experiments prove fruitful. The hokily-named “Car Chase Terror,” for instance, is marred by a rather inane spoken-word dialogue that carries throughout the song. Interesting during perhaps the initial listen, this almost mawkish exchange between a mortified mother and child (seemingly voiced by the same person) fleeing some unspecified demonic pursuer grows increasingly grating with each successive spin.Also cringe-worthy is “Can’t Stop,” in which Gonzalez apparently enlists Alvin and the Chipmunks to chant the line “Can’t stop / I can’t stop, now” ad nauseam. These two duds aside, the rest of “Before the Dawn” shines more than enough to make for an infinitely enriching listening experience. Indeed, the dawn can wait.