Album Reviews: Before the Dawn Heals Us by M83With many American listeners still smitten with 2004’s justly lauded Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (released in 2003 in Europe), French electronica maven Anthony Gonzalez returns with another ambitious, cinematic, grandiose near-masterpiece that should entrench M83 as one of the brightest spots on the electronic horizon.
Fluctuating between skyscraper-high walls of guitars, minimalist psychedelia, celestial keyboards and unnerving theatrical vignettes (“Car Chase Terror”), the tracks on Before The Dawn Heals Us are strange but codependent bedfellows, like the seemingly incongruous pieces of a single cohesive dream.
Instead of doing everything himself behind boards, Gonzalez makes the bold choice of putting a real live human (Loïc Maurin) behind a real live drum kit. The difference is tangible, beefing up rock-influenced compositions like “*” and “A Guitar and a Heart.” While the bigger sound may alienate some who prefer M83’s ethereal adventures, Before The Dawn Heals Us is a better album for it, stepping well outside the lethargic sameness that plagues many of its contemporaries. It complements its acclaimed predecessor, but wisely refrains from repeating the Dead Cities blueprint.
“Don’t Save Us From The Flames” is an immediate and energetic standout, featuring manic keyboards, wispy background vocals, a brief Interpol-like guitar breakdown, and even a handclapping climax. It’s brilliantly bracing and unapologetically ostentatious. Its follow-up, the tellingly titled “In The Cold I’m Standing,” is quite the reverse: slow, repetitive and somber, recalling earlier, ambient Moby. All this shifting makes the highs feel higher and the lows feel lower. Both directions are well worth exploring. - Adam McKibbin
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