Out of M83‘s mammoth new double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming there’s one particularly striking moment – a short narrative voiced by a child and about how touching this one particular frog can transport you to a new world, change your body and even change colour – from blue to red. Once everybody has come into contact with this frog, the girl says with wonder, we could be “the biggest group of friends the world has ever seen”. At first the story is jarring, and perhaps easily dismissed as throwaway or childlike, but actually ends up feeling like the key to unlocking the whole story behind M83′s new record.
The world – and it does feel like a planet of its own – of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is one that Anthony Gonzalez constructs not from the nostalgia of lo-fi, broken VHS or half-reflected memories that we are used to seeing lately but a deeper nostalgia of perfect, safe childhood stories and comic books. Just like those kind of narratives, the veneer of this record is pristine and every touch of gloss or larger than life facade feels slightly unreal – too big to fully grasp. In that respect it feels otherworldly like any other drug album, except the drug here (as on Saturdays = Youth) is childhood and youth itself. There’s something invincible at work here.
Take Zola Jesus on ‘Intro’ whose already big, gothic vibes are given an even bigger theatre to reverberate in. She sounds like a comic book version of herself – the dark, all-consuming elements of her voice are taken to an extreme. The song’s wide-eyed scene setting is also conversely one of the strongest moments on the record (and possibly stronger than anything on Zola Jesus’ own debut record Conatus). That may perhaps be a little unexpected for a song that is in name and execution an ‘Intro’ but despite that still manages to feel essential out of context too. The record never really comes down from that heady start as Gonzalez wrings euphoria and intensity out of every single sound. On songs like ‘Midnight City’ and ‘Steve McQueen’ his voice becomes part of that mechanism, distorted to the point where it seems that all Gonzalez really wants to do is burst out of whatever speaker or set of headphones you are listening on.
The less out-and-out pop moments like ‘Wait’ with its acoustic guitar and gentle vocals still manage to belong to the same cartoon world – here the emotions are put under a magnifying glass as the song builds with strings and brass until an animal-like howl from Gonzalez pushes the song over the edge. Indeed, the whole record feels like it exists on the edge of something, each powerfully scored moment, or big release, seems set-up for somebody new to fall in love with, or reach a point where you may as well just put your hands up, and let yourself be taken in to Gonzalez’s world.
There’s a certain way of seeing things that belongs to the realm of childhood, or dreams – a funny kind of topsy-turvy, everything not-quite-as-it-seems world that in books you have to fall down a rabbit hole, or dive headlong into a train platform to find. It’s a difficult feeling to capture in music but M83 pitches Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in just the right place between all-inclusive, flat out fun and something that feels like a more personal, emotional and ultimately nostalgic adventure.