There have been very few defining musical moments of my life. I can distinctly remember three. The first was when a friend of mine gave me Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell album as a throwaway gift. The second was when I heard Bon Iver for the very first time. And the third “Road to Damascus” moment was when I came across M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This is very possibly the most important album of 2011. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
I belong to a select society* on Facebook which swaps and shares what can be broadly called indie music. Our mission is to scorn popular tunes in favour of obscure indie bands like Snowmine, the Jezabels and This Will Destroy You. The group is thoroughly snobbish and smug, and I love it.
I love it because someone will insist on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83, and I instinctively know it’s a good album.
A few days after M83 released its sixth studio album, I got my hands on it. And spent that weekend in a fizz.
Let’s get right to it – this isn’t Coldplay or U2 or the sodding Parlotones or Kings of Leon. None of the tunes will make it onto 5fm (one hopes). If you’ve never had someone stare blankly at you after you told them what you were listening to, exit left here.
What we have here is the sixth studio album by Anthony Gonzalez (who performs with a band as M83). The French musician moved to Los Angeles where with the help of Beck bassist and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, he created this seminal work. The work is apparently influenced by Gonzalez’s drives to the Joshua Tree National Park as well as Depeche Mode and The Killers. What we have is an artist longing for his childhood, where things were presumably a lot simpler, using some of the most elaborate pop arrangements you’ll ever hear.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming isn’t dream pop, electronic or shoegaze, as the M83 is often described as. It’s kind of all three at once.
The opening track – helpfully entitled “Intro” – is a sweltering call to arms. Gonzalez calls upon the vocals of Zola Jesus to yowl: Carry on/Carry on/And after us the flood.
And just like the texture of a dream can shift on a dime, we shift from the dreamy highs of the first song into the 1980s pop-tune Midnight City. There’s even a cheeky saxophone (hello Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street) And so it goes. For 22 tracks. This is really two albums, and the listening can be too exhausting for one sitting, but the effort is thoroughly rewarded.
Watch M83, Midnight City.
Gonzalez allows his vocals to just about disappear into the wall of stunning synth riffs without it losing its strength and balance when he’s all shoegaze, then you get a track like Wait, where it’s all about his pained howl.
In Raconte-Moi Une Histoire, a small child (the jury is out on the exact gender) recounts a dreamy tale of frogs and androgynous parents to a skippy accompaniment.
In the second portion of the album, we take on a more leisurely pace as Gonzalez experiments between orchestral sounds and synth layers, before he ends up on the sweaty high he started up on.
It isn’t difficult to inject yourself into M83 at this point if you haven’t heard their previous sound. I’ve yet to deeply explore the previous works, but unlike The Arcade Fire’s Suburbs, this album manages to stand quite happily on its own merit. I feel it’s a good place to start, before moving on to the previous album Saturdays = Youth.
This is an incredible album. I love it for losing the pop structure at times and confounding me at every turn. It’s a massively important work that you’ll probably never hear on radio. Good thing too. We wouldn’t want to give M83 ideas about watering down its songs for Parlotones fans now, would we? DM
*No, I’m not a Freemason.
EMI records refused to allow the Beatles' Here comes the Sun to be placed on the Voyager spacecraft's record.