The soundtrack to the end of the world.
M83 - A Guitar and a Heart - M83 seemed to come out of nowhere last year with Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts, a mammoth album that took the beauty under fuzz aesthetic of a My Bloody Valentine, and fused it with a downright cinematic sense of scope. Dead Cities was a long slow boil of album hype, starting out only availiable as an import from the French label Gooom, before being picked up stateside by Mute. And now, M83, reduced from a duo to, once again, just Anthony Gonzalez, have prepared a follow up, entitled Before the Dawn Heals Us. The sounds are more natural this time, with an increased sense of live instrumentation as the layers strip away, and vocals are introduced, but what comes through the most in the album is an apocalyptic tension. "A Guitar and a Heart" provides the albums climax, picking up in many ways where Dead Cities left off, as elements heard throughout Before the Dawn are reintroduced and brought up to a fever pitch. The mushroom clouds can be seen off in the distance, and it's all we can do to save ourselves. There is fear here, and fury, but most notably, there is a sense of salvation in the distorted wails of guitars, the crunch of what might be boots marching or thousands cheering, and when the noise fades, it goes straight into pastoral bliss.
M83 - Safe - There is however, another sort of climax on Before the Dawn, and it's one that has pretty much divided the folks I've spoken to about this album down the middle. Mainly because it's an enormous departure for M83. The song opens with a quiet, tragic piano line, and vocals by Gonzalez... and, well, aside from some ambient effect, not much gets added - in fact, it strips down to just spoken word in places, though there is some moog organ for drama. For an artist that has built a reputation on sweeping soundscapes and huge dynamics, this is a pretty big gamble, but in my estimation, one that pays off. By placing at the core of the epic scale of the album a song so quiet, so strikingly emotional, everything around it takes on an extra weight. It's a delicate thing to do, but M83 have pulled it off stunningly. The song ends in fireworks, and the sounds of children amazed. Count me among them. Before the Dawn will hit streets on January 25th.
[Buy Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts from Amazon.com!]