Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag France - Full Moon 102 - 01/25/05

Before the Dawn Heals Us

Just like comparing different James Brown albums, Beatles albums, or Elvis Presley output, comparing this new album to M83's other albums seems mostly pointless. In a lot of cases, the better the band or artist the more useless it becomes to compare their works. If you think about it: they're dynamic, changing people. Isn't it a good thing when bands' albums sound different from each other? Personally, I've never quite understood the backlash that happens when bands change directions from album to album.

Sometimes, even personnel changes. I mean, The Cure had like a milliard incarnations didn't they? Well, M83 is once again Anthony Gonzales' solo project, and while it's unclear exactly what Nicolas Fromageau's responsibilities were (I'm thinking he could have been the drummer), it is very clear that M83 sounds markedly different without him.

It's unknown if there is a connection to Fromageau's leaving, but this is also M83's major-label debut in the States, being released in America by EMI/Virgin, while still be distributed in Europe by French label Gooom.

So, this album is certainly different. It follows that looking at Before The Dawn Heals Us on its own merits seems the only way to do it fairly. And to my ears, this is one of the few original, genre-transcending sounds being made right now. This album is both a horn-of-plenty of new M83 songs and a golden vessel of brand-new, original sound. Superlatives abound!

While I said that I don't want to do too much comparing, I'll say there's a lot more singing and guitar on this album, and I appreciate the fact that Anthony Gonzales has broken out of a shell here. The new direction may poorly surprise some, but I'm really championing it. Words like "overwrought" get thrown around a lot these days, and it takes guts to sing like Gonzales does here, especially considering what he surely knows about many of his fans' expectations for the follow-up to Dead Cities....

It turns out Gonzales can take his voice high, I mean, real high. And it can get soft, and it can get breathy. That in and of itself, of course, means next to nothing: it's the way he uses his voice that impresses me so much. His melodies! The melodies are what I find moving me the most here. These are secret, cloak-and-dagger melodies. They pull off having precedent without being contrived, and they even seem to affect in new ways, especially when the listener gets down to the highly bizarre lyrics after a couple of listenings.

The "band" is still that synthesized wall-of-sound M83 has become known for, but now the harmonies are more odd, and in the grand scheme of music, nothing short of beautiful. You don't come across harmony or melody like this very often in rock music, or anywhere else for that matter, and I'm really happy M83 have stepped up on this album. I don't know if Gonzales plays all the instruments here or what, but, to the drummer: thank you for f-ing rockin and thanks for micing your drums so damn well. I do miss the old electronic drums some. And to the girl that does the spoken word: wow, how beautifully personal. I love the story. I like this album so much because of how it seems, almost secret.

Now, this isn't a perfect album, and neither are the other two M83 albums. And yes, Dead Cities might be better than this, but like I said earlier, it's silly for that to matter. This album is different from Dead Cities, and that's ultimately its greatest boon.

Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks e-mail address

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