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M83 - M83/Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts/Before the Dawn Heals Us [Reissues]


"M83/Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts/Before the Dawn Heals Us"

Release date: 25 August 2014
M83 Before the Dawn Heals Us
21 August 2014, 09:30 Written by Stephen Jenkins
Following the critical and commercial success of 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, French electro-shoegazer, Anthony Gonzalez, reissues the first three albums of his M83 project (2001’s M83, 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, and 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us), reminding us of the origins of a sound which pitches itself on a scale as cosmic as the project’s galactic namesake.

In April 2001, an unheard of French duo, Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, released their eponymous debut album. This record, a largely instrumental affair, save for the odd piece of sampled dialogue taken from cult movies such as It Conquered the World and Mark of the Vampire, failed to make much of an impression outside of the European music circuit. That said, the album failed to even chart in Europe.

Fast forward ten years to 2011 and Gonzalez, now the sole surviving founding member of M83, releases the band’s double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This time things are a bit different. The record enters the US Chart at 15th and is listed third in Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of the year. Meanwhile, the album’s leading single “Midnight City” ranks in at number 1 on the same publication’s 2011 Top 100 Tracks list and appears on teleboxes across the UK as the uplifting background music to signify everything and anything triumphant; from another British gold at the London 2012 Olympics, to Spencer getting his back, sack and crack done on Made in Chelsea.

With such an increase in exposure, it makes perfect sense from a business point of view for M83 to reissue their mostly overlooked early releases. Having been out of print for several years, M83 (2001), Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts (2004), and Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005) will now be available to a much larger M83 fanbase, one which may well include everyone from reality TV watchers to Union Jack waving jingos.

From a critical standpoint, the proposition is an even more enticing one. What this bumper re-issue serves to remind us is that there is no shortage of galactic-scale anthem material in the M83 repertoire, along with a whole interstellar system of ethereal musical gases and audible dusts (that means that there are some slow ones too, in case you couldn’t gather).

Of all the three albums reissued, debut record M83 presents perhaps the most incongruous collection of songs from the act’s catalogue. Whilst synths and reverb abound in abundance as in all M83 releases, it just doesn’t feel like it’s all quite there yet. That said, although M83 bumbles along a bit without the same immense grandeur of later albums, it is in its own right a soothingly hypnotic mixture of drawled out synths, lazy break beats, and backmasked vocal samples.

If M83 was a sort of lazy Sunday cruise through deep space, then 2004’s Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts was when the band shifted the ship in to hyperspace. Straight from the off, the reverb-guitar driven, looping-synth addled “Unrecorded” catapults us into an album which is filled with some astronomical sounds, from the strobe-keys of “Run into Flowers”, to the spaghettifying synthesisers of “Be Wild”.

Nicolas Fromageau - one half of the original M83 line-up - left the project after they had toured Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts, leaving Gonzalez as the sole pilot at the creative helm. But the departure had little effect on the prospects of 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. In fact, the album marked M83’s most successful commercial endeavour yet (if we were to measure commercial success in how many minutes of television an album can provide the soundtrack to), with their songs appearing in anything from a Britney Spears documentary to a Red Bull snowboarding commercial.

Musically, the album delves into darker, more sinister territories, opting towards sometimes jarringly grand orchestral mood movements which might make one think that Britney: For the Record is in fact a 10 hour long experimental video installation which explores the theme of post-acid comedowns. For all I know, that could be the case. The album’s singles, “Teen Angst” and “Don’t Save Us from the Flames” display Gonzalez’s knack for penning a more than half-decent shoegaze tune with vast waves of crescendos on top of oh-so softly spoken vocals, something which is a staple feature in later albums Saturdays = Youth and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

M83, whose name comes from a randomly selected galaxy somewhere in the universe, have more than proven that they can produce music which can evoke that sense of otherworldly majesty which is required when you’re named after a randomly selected galaxy somewhere in the universe. Moreover, what the reissue of these three albums does is tie together a cohesive career of electrifying synth-driven post-rock music from Anthony Gonzalez, one of the music world’s, and indeed the film world’s, most prized composers. And if he can make Made in Chelsea not completely unbearable, then that’s a bonus.

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