Do you think he still loves her?
How would I know that, Hunter?
…I think he does.
-“She Stands Up”, M83
M83 is the stage name of French electronic artist Anthony Gonzalez. Much like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Gonzalez regularly performs with other musicians but is otherwise the sole official member of M83. Originally formed in Antibes, France in 2001 as an electronic duo with fellow musician Nicolas Fromageau, M83 has undergone significant changes to its musical style throughout its 8-year history as a band and has since incorporated influences ranging from shoegaze, synth pop, and New Wave music genres.
Tying together the broad musical range are persistent themes of melancholy, love, whimsical idealism, isolation, and broodiness that make M83 fantastic music for night-time activities, driving, or solitary walks. M83 has a tendency to conclude every album they release with epic, 10-mintue long tracks that slowly build up into absolute aural assaults on your ears. In general, M83 produces slick, dark electronica that’s good for solitary listening, or inclusion onto mixtapes that you send to people you want to sleep with.
Good, non-repetitive electronica can be difficult to come across these days, and my fascination with M83 is largely attributed to the evolution of musical style apparent in each album they release. Initially characterized by heavy use of shoegazey synth and sampled vocals, the group took on a more dream pop sound, especially following the departure of Nicolas Fromageau in 2005. “Epic” is hardly an adequate word to describe the full catalogue of M83’s material, and their albums are meant to be listened to start to finish, ideally while vegging out in your living room couch, watching the rain crash against your windows.
M83 (2001). Fun fact: the song titles of the album form a narrative that fits quite well with the emotional content of the album. “Last night, at the party. Kelly, sitting, facing that violet tree, staring at me. I’m getting closer. She stands up, caresses my face. ‘I’m happy, she said.’” The self-titled is probably my favorite album, but then again my tolerance for ambience and electronica is greater than most.
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003). Gonzales and Fromageau do their best to convey beauty and desolation through an electronic medium, and they succeed admirably. A buddy of mine describes the track “America” as “a total head rush interrupted with the sounds of someone drowning a baby.”
Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005). This album marks the beginning of the stylistic transition of the band, and actually uses vocals instead of the distorted sampling prevalent in their previous work. The closing track, “Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun”, reminds me of the ocean.
Digital Shades Volume 1 (2007). I actually haven’t heard this album yet. I’ll get around to it someday.
Saturdays = Youth (2008). Gonzales cites John Hughes movies among his primary influences for this album, and it certainly shows. In interviews, Gonzales admits to being fascinated with teenager culture, and the idealism contrasted with world-weariness that usually accompanies those formative years. Easily their most accessible and popular album, Saturdays = Youth is a nostalgic, rose-tinted trip into the 80s. Contributing vocals is Morgan Kibby, a Los Angeles-based keyboardist who has recently joined M83 on tour. The group likes to end their live shows with the track “Couleurs,” an 8-minute long synth jam featuring a gradual build-up of layer upon layer of overwhelming sound. Good stuff.