For M83‘s third album Before The Dawn Heals Us (2005), band co-founder Anthony Gonzalez decided to part ways with the other co-founding member Nicolas Fromageau.
Named after the mesmerizing Messier 83 (M83) spiral galaxy, Gonzalez’s electronic group carried on its vision to create the kind of dreamy pop that would best mimic its inspiration.
On a pure melody basis, M83 succeeds greatly in aurally depicting a distant cosmic entity forever framed in such a way that it appears frighteningly touchable in its frozen dance. If not illustrating the galaxy itself, M83 does translate the experience of watching it and fantasizing about life there so many millions of light-years away.
“Moonchild” opens the album with a part hopeful, part hopeless look at what dreams have to offer. The lyrics are spoken as bookends, introducing an endless array of possibilities (“Keep on singing little boy, and raise your arms to the big black sky. Raise your arms the highest you can, so the whole universe will glow”) and ending with the sobering coldness of reality (“I realized I was in love with the voice. I called it again and again, but all I heard was the echo in the light”). In-between is a lush and enchanting epic waiting to be told.
What separates M83 from other shoegazers is the its willingness to keep going. It might be construed as stretching, but Gonzalez uses the echoes to further explore and represent what could have been. This is reflected best in the pure instrumental tracks like “In The Cold I’m Standing” or minimal vocal tracks like “Safe” where the atmosphere and stimulation would have been lost in shorter versions. It’s any wonder why there are any sub two-minute tracks on the album and you can wonder for yourself where the imaginative “I Guess I’m Floating” and the divine “Let Me Burn Stars” could have gone if they had been let loose.
Nevertheless, M83 crafts inspired tracks that balance the awe of fantasy and the certainty of life’s ultimate monotony. It works brilliantly even if the song comprises of repeated single lyric (“Can’t Stop”) or reverts us back to the 1980s world of 8-bit sci-fi arcade video games and retro electronic rock (“A Guitar And A Heart”). The only true solace is that your dreams will eventually live on with someone else.
- 1. Moonchild
2. Don’t Save Us From The Flames
3. In The Cold I’m Standing
4. Farewell / Goodbye
5. Fields, Shorelines And Hunters
7. I Guess I’m Floating
8. Teen Angst
9. Can’t Stop
11. Let Men Burn Stars
12. Car Chase Terror!
13. Slight Night Shiver
14. A Guitar And A Heart
15. Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun