M83 – Digital Shades Vol. 1

m83The advent of a new M83 album is big for me. The previous two albums (Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts (2003) and Before The Dawn Heals Us(2005)) are landmark albums in my opinion. Fusing the symphonic and abrasive soundscapes of bands like Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine with the shimmering electronic styles of someone like Four Tet and Manitoba, M83 have always been one of the artists that I’ve thought did things that I would do in a band. Coating some delicate and wonderful melodies with an harsh screed of feedback seemed such a good idea. So it’s more than a little disappointing when Digital Shades turned out to be something really different from previous works.

Seemingly part of an ongoing series of works, Digital Shades is a beautiful album to listen to. There’s still a symphonc grandeur to the album and there’s still the elegant synth sounds that I associate with, but the tracks on Digital Shades are more mood pieces than actual songs. In dispensing with any kind of percussion and vocals on most tracks, there’s a feeling that this is almost like a soundtrack album. “Strong And Wasted” kicks up the intensity a notch by simply adding another distorted synth layer on top of the gentle fluttering bird song. “My Own Strange Path” sounds strangely retro and seems to want to burst into “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2.

“Colouring The Void” and “By The Kiss” are wonderful though; they tugs at my heart strings for all the right reasons. There’s still some things that nag at me, as why most of the tracks are so short and why a track like Sister has to be split into two tracks at the opposite ends of the album. Digital Shades is the first in what appears to be an ongoing series of quick releases that will expand and continue the themes on the first album. Which is good, as there’s some great stuff on here but I can’t help but thinking this is Anthony Gonzalez boxing himself in slightly. Digital Shades is warm and intimate, but the previous M83 albums blasted for the heart of the Sun.

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