M83 break away from their teen dream fairytales with new album Junk

m83 photo live

M83 at Club Nokia

When French electronic band M83 announced it had returned to the studio, I felt a carefully measured level of excitement rise within me. On one hand, I had the promise of new material from Anthony Gonzalez, on the other, they had the insurmountable task of creating an album that would exist in the shadow of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. I’ve always held onto the analogy that if Daft Punk is the sound of the future, then M83 is the soundtrack to our childhood fantasies. The worlds that were created and sensual textures Gonzalez and his small army of vocalists and multi-instrumentalists painted them with on that sublime double-album has cemented it as not only the pinnacle of M83’s artistry, but of the many genres it touched on. When news of the band’s loss of longtime singer/keyboardist Morgan Kibby was announced, it only fueled my trepidations–a paradigm shift in sound and style seemed imminent.

Yet, in the same way Dreaming was praised for its accessible compositions with Gonzalez’s theatrical orchestration of ambient crescendos, M83’s answer to their 2011 masterpiece sees the group delving deeper into the vast wells of 80s dream-pop and modern fascination with electronica. The only noticeable lapse in cohesion of Junk are its interspersed moments of tribute to the bygone rarities of 1970’s television, paying homage to shows like Punky Brewster and Who’s the Boss? with its own show-tunes (“Moon Crystal” aka the album’s version of a commercial break) and the quiet sentimentalities of some emotive ballads. There are the stirring movements in “For the Kids,” which are made possible by the sumptuously crestfallen croons of Susanne Sundfør, as well as the soft undulations of saxophones and swelling strings. A piano serenade turned blistering guitar solo erupts moments later (“Solitude”), while the subtle intimacies of Gonzalez and Mai Lan’s duet on “Atlantique Sud” waltzes forward on the duo’s dulcet vocalizations in French.

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These moments are divvied up between Junk‘s lush accelerations of shoegaze powered propulsions of pop-rock–and at its inception in the twittering keyboard medley of “Do It, Try It,” the album discharges a thrilling vortex of synths and thundering reverb that seldom pauses in. The murmured distortion of Gonzalez and Lan’s vocals allows Junk to retain the band’s elemental dreaminess, but these modesties take the backseat against outpourings of roared choruses and brass-backed, synth melodies (“Go!”). Showing less concern with meticulously crafted dramatics, the album finds M83 employing its massive orchestra of overlaid electric guitars, strings, brass, and keys for the purpose of recreating polished versions of past endeavors. At times it seems to allude back to Before the Dawn Heals Us, as if Kim & Jessie have finally awoken from their teen dreams and have flung open the door of their bedroom to escape into a midnight of driving 80’s pop hits. Both “Walkaway Blues” and “Bibi the Dog” lumber forward on hypnotic disco beats–drum clicks, cascading synths, warbled vocalizations, and sonorous trumpeting–before exploding in a surge of dizzying electrics.

After the intermission of “Moon Crystal,” Junk manages to decelerate enough to showcase M83’s ambient chops (“The Wizard”) and a more subdued take on the heavy synth-pop that dominates the first-half of the album. Lan shines once again on the somber “Laser Gun,” a futuristic crash of blips and synthesizers, one that is held aloft by her shouted chants; while the distinctively disco “Road Blaster” burns in exhilaration with the rush of Gonzalez’s velvet cries and the blissful whirring of saxes. As with many of their albums, Junk ends a lot more quietly than it began, preferring to fade out of existence with soothing, ambient exhalations (“Ludivine,” “Saturday Night 1987”).

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What Junk might lack in the adhesive profundity of Dreaming‘s resounding themes, M83’s return makes-up for in the uncharacteristic levels of intimacy that lie in the nuanced moments between every lavish, synth-fueled drop and deliciously evocative guitar hook. Breaking free from the teen dream aesthetics of his last two albums, Gonzalez has reaffirmed his band’s ability to not only bring to life the luxuriant soundscapes of his ultramodern orchestra, but to also allow the listener to dance, cry, and melt within its lucidity.

M83 is set the headline the Fox Theater in Pomona on Tuesday, April 19. Junk is out now via Mute records.

Words: Steven Ward


M83 with Big Black Delta at Club Nokia – Photos & Show Review – Jan. 13, 2012



April 6 – New Orleans, LA – The Civic Theatre*
April 8 – Dallas, TX – Bomb Factory*
April 9 – Houston, TX – The Lawn at White Oak Music Hall*
April 10 – Austin, TX – Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater*
April 12 – Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theatre*
April 13 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre*#
April 15 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
April 16 – Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl*
April 17 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater*
April 19 – Pomona, CA – Fox Theater*
April 22 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
April 23 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst Club*
April 25 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater*
April 26 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater*
April 27 – Missoula, MT – The Wilma
April 29 – Edmonton, AB – Winspear Centre@
April 30 – Calgary, AB – Grey Eagle Event Centre@
May 4 – Hong Kong, China – Kitec Star Hall
May 7 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – KL Live
May 19 – Sentosa, Singapore – Hard Rock Coloseum
May 21 – Jakarta, Indonesia – Lapangan D Senayan
May 24 – Seoul, South Korea – AX
May 26 – Tokyo, Japan – Studio Coast
May 28 – The Gorge, WA – Sasquatch Music Festival
May 30 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Great Saltair^
May 31 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre^
June 1 – Kansas City, MO – Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland^
June 3 – Columbus, OH – Express Live!
June 4 – New York, NY – The Governors Ball Music Festival
June 6 – Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE^
June 7 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s^
June 8 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues^
June 10 – Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music Festival
June 11 – Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater
June 12 – Richmond, VA – The National
June 14 – Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore
June 15 – Norfolk, VA – The NorVa
June 16 – Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion (with Tame Impala)
June 18 – Dover, DE – Firefly Festival
June 24-26 – Paris, France – Solidays Festival
June 28 – Istanbul, Turky – Zorlu Center
June 30 – Gdynia, Poland – Open’er Festival
July 1-3 – Marmande, France – Garorock
July 3 – Belfort, France – Eurockéennes
July 7 – Bilbao, Spain – BBK Live Festival
July 9 – Lisbon, Portugal – NOS Festival
July 15 – Gräfenhainchen, Germany – Melt Festival
July 17 – Ostrava, Czech Republic – Colors of Ostrava Festival
July 20 – Portland, ME – Thompon’s Point
July 21 – Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
July 22-24 – Ontario, CA – Way Home Music and Arts Festival
July 23-24 – Detroit, MI – MOPOP Festival
July 25 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant
July 27 – Council Bluffs, IA – Stir Cove
July 29 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
July 29-31 – Montreal, QC – Osheaga Festival
Aug 10 – Oslo, Norway – Øya Festival
Aug 11 – Gothenberg, Sweden – Way Out West Festival
Aug 13 – Helsinki, Finland – Flow Festival
Aug 15 – Budapest, Hungary – Sziget Festival
Aug 19-21 – Biddinghuizen, Netherlands – Lowlands Festival
Aug 25 28 – Charleville Mézières – Cabaret Vert Festival

* With YACHT as opener
*# With YACHT and BØRNS as opener
@ With Okay Kaya as opener

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