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I just got back to Montréal just two months ago after having been away for over a year. Travelling. Journey. Discovering. Learning. I realised recently that I’ve been really out of touch with the indie scene while I was away. One of the artists that I still kept in touch with while I was travelling though, was M83. I got their most recent and long awaited two disc release, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Naive Records, Mute Records) in October of this year. With this recent LP, Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez once again shows us that he’s more than capable making music that go beyond just Listening. His talent of painting musical landscapes that we can touch, see, and feel with his sound is something special that has kept me drawn and interested in his music since his first self titled release in 2001—then with Nicolas Fromageau, who is now in Team Ghost. So when I found out that M83—with openers Active Child—was playing a show here for the last day of the festival M pour Montréal, I knew I had to go.
M83 is a group named after the spiral galaxy Messier 83, formed originally in 2001 by two guys from France, Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau. The latter member left shortly after 2005 with releases of M83 (2001) and Dead Cities, Read Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003) together. Since then, Gonzalez has released equally if not more emotionally charged LPs: Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005), Digital Shades Vol. 1 (2007), Saturdays = Youth (2008), and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011).
All of M83′s albums have been consistent in the artistic language that Gonzalez has done so well in presenting to us. They get compared to a lot to bands that have blown up in the past couple of years like Neon Indian, Washed Out, and Memory Tapes who do have qualities that M83 possesses but the comparison is not so justified in my opinion. M83 goes outside the box of having a particular monolithic sound by encompassing and combining chillwave ambience, psychedelic surf pop, shoegaze, minimal electronic, dreamwave, instrumental rock and experential intention with his sound. This intersectionality varies whether all these elements are in just one song or not. It’s clear when you listen to his music. It’s clear when you listen to an album begining to end. He makes albums that flow well, sound good, and has tracks that make you dance (you know, generally what makes an album good, eh). But, it’s more than that. He’s making you a Soundtrack for Life.
Your first cigarette. Your first lover. Your loneliness. Losing a loved one. Heartache. Breaking the rules. The glare of the sun in your eyes. Getting older. The Kiss that never ended. The sand in between your toes. Letting go. Joy. Lessons learned. Thunderstorms. Being Alive. You find yourself in emotional whirlwinds all of a sudden. You stop everything you do and you listen, smell, see, and touch the music. You come out realising all that you’ve been through ’cause the music has brought you this history. Emotionally charged in the sound, the distant cries of his muffled singing, the Naming of the tracks, and the intention behind the pauses, the music has the power to push you into different realities, bad and good. In the end, there is this clear underlying optimism in his music despite all the sad parts. The Positive in the Negative. Each album contains this inevitable evolution. This varied catharticism is what makes M83 so special.
Some tracks that M83 are most known for are their more upbeat danceable tracks like “Kim & Jessie“, “Graveyard Girl“, “Midnight City“, “Don’t Save Us From the Flames“, “Teen Angst“, “Run Into Flowers“, and “Couleurs“. While these are fantastic tracks and I have so many favorites on top of these, I want to share some tracks that have become soundtracks for certain moments of my life.
It will be interesting to see how M83 is live tonight. I no doubt believe that Gonzalez will take us on a journey. For those of you lucky enough to get tickets to the now sold out show, see you there and bon show! Don’t forget to come back for a review of the live show! Thanks to M pour Montréal for having me cover this and especially to Catherine who made this possible.
You can buy M83′s music here!
MP3: M83 – Safe
It was a beautiful night in Montréal last night in the Latin Quarter, barrio host of M for Montréal and the globally recognized and acclaimed Mutek Festival. Le Monument National was lit up wonderful purple hues, Club Soda got blared its’ lightsin preparation for the M83 after party, and as always, le S.A.T.’s sound system was heard going beyond the walls to the dark rimmed glasses, fancy winter boots, thrifty tops and waves of plaid wearing people smoking outside.
Active Child is a project that recently came into fruition by Pat Grossi, native of New Jersey who now lives in Los Angeles. Accompanied by two more band mates that look surprisingly similar to Grossi himself (or maybe it was just the lights, jaja), Active Child busted out music that reminded me of the 80′s electronic pop sound of Depeche Mode & New Order, the soundtrack nature of M83, the ambiance of Ocuban, the new school style of R’n'B now popularized by Drake and The Weeknd, and Grossi’s voice! (So, all good things. Jejeje). Oh! His voice sounded like the Presets lead vocalist, Julian Hamilton. Oddly enough he doesn’t sound like this in his debut studio LP, You Are All I See (Vagrant Records, 2011). Either way, studio or live, his voice is wonderful, unique, interesting, and cosmic (he used to sing in a choir)! Pat Grossi has an incredible voice that has a transformative range of style which, along with the fact that he plays a mean harp and experiments with synthesizers, enables him to paint soundscapes just as M83 does while keepin’ it slightly sensual with some R’n'B flare.
I had no idea who Active Child was, no idea what kind of music but figured it was worth seeing if they were opening for M83. It was definitely a decision I don’t regret. They impressed the hell out of everyone in that crowd and no doubt prepared us for the journey we were about to take with M83 but dosing us with a cheeky adventure of their own. Fantastic performance!
Buy their music here!
Now onto M83. Hoorah! The long wait was over! The lights dimmed and epic synths started our journey into space. The background was lit with tiny lights reppin’ stars that changed colors throughout the show with six or so brightly lit up columns lining the back. The whole set up reminded me of some space portal platform. Beyond the columns, the stars, space, infinity, and the unknown. Ooooooo. The four stood in between us the galaxy. They were going to take us on a cosmic voyage. They were our passageway and as curious, adoring, fundamentally imaginative creatures, and lovers of the dream state M83 is so good at inducing, we acquiesced.
“Intro”, the first track off of their latest album started slowly through the speakers. The synths were prolonged and etched carefully deeper and deeper as the lights began getting more intense. All of a sudden there was this creature. Looked like a human but had a possum rat head! Possum rat hands and eyes and ears! It was alien to us but that was what we signed up for. The adventure begins.
The band came on with full applause. Founder of the group Anthony Gonzalez (center), and his three touring bandmates, INCREDIBLE vocalist/keyboardist Morgan Kibby—who helped in production of Saturdays = Youth and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (right), drummer Loïc Maurin (back), the possibly new bandmate that M83 was searching for a few months back (left), hopped on stage to full and ear deafening applause. You knew with this kind of opening that the rest of the night was going to make history in our memories. What an intro song! What a start! With Gonzalez strutting his dance moves with his back against us arms behind his head, and hoards of people singing along and crying out “Carry on! Carry on!”, it was clear that from the crowd to the band, everyone was In It Together From the Beginning.
M83 never dropped a beat throughout the entire set. The energy was kept high like a good DJ at a club and they were simply unrelenting in their efforts to make us sweat. At one point Gonzalez paused and made a little joke about how was going to err speak English and then laughed and spoke French well ’cause, you know, we all knew he was from France. Jajaja silly man. So, this was the one time that there was a “significant” gap in the tracks. It was a good gap. The crowd loved him more because of his charming humor.
After “Intro”, they went into “Teen Angst” which got the crowd even rowdier with a very nice change up in the climax of the song with some techy beats that reminded me of their musical history in Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. They didn’t play any songs off of M83 or Dead Cities but they paid tribute to them with these kinds of change ups in their more recent songs that they did perform which I really liked. It kept the momentum of the energy high and kept the integrity of their musical evolution.
They go straight into one of their most popular tracks that put Saturdays = Youth solidly on the map, “Kim and Jessie”. Can I just say, THEY KILLED THIS TRACK. It was ridculous how good it was live. Kibby was rockin’ out hardcore Led Zep styles. I was amused and was pulled in by the new bandmate who reminds me a lot of the bandmate that every band has to have or has had at some stage. Curly hair, surfer cali look, not too much emotion on his face like what he’s doing is super serious and there’s no fun in seriosity. But you know he feels the music and the emotion super intensely and he’s about to explode with it ’cause he gets those wide eyes at climatic moments and his body goes into crazy dance offs and guitar offs. You know what I mean? Meanwhile, Anthony had this epic happiness to him on stage.
They always changed up the build up, build down, and climaxes of songs to include that minimal techy Kraftwerk-y Space-y PEWPEWPEWPEW Space gun Tron-like musicality to remind us that we were on an alien space voyage with them. At some points I literally felt like I was at a Rave in Space. Lasers! Stars! Alients! Epileptic strobe lights everywhere! It was so surreal. It was so amazing.
Everyone on stage was having a blast. Dance offs, guitar offs, tamborine offs. Laughs and petite and brief exchanges were made between the bandmates. There wasn’t much conversation with us verbally, but we were very much connected to them the whole time and the room was palpable to this. Their harmonies on every single track was INCREDIBLE. On point. To a tee. I think that’s why everyone walked out of this show unquestionably happy and impressed. The energy from the crowd, the band, to the music was just so explicitly intense. Smiles were on everyone’s faces.
M83 ended the set with “A Guitar and a Heart”, a song true to the instrumental rock influence within their music. After the whole hearted ovation, the band came on and started with “Skin of the Night”. It was epic. And then, the moment came when they played one of my favorite songs and DESTROYED any and all good encores that we’ve seen in the past on our memory’s map.
“Couleurs” came on with a fierceness. The nine minute build up was tantric. They built and built and built and kept us on the edge for the longest possible moment. Everyone is going nuts on stage. Kibby is wilin’ out on the tamborine. The guitarist abandons his keyboard station goes onto the other side and starts banging on an electronic drum kit. The drummer is KILLING it (he reminds me Phil Selway, the mad talented drummer of Radiohead). Gonzalez is on the floor! He runs around! Then all of a sudden the intensity calms down while we’re on the brink of tipping. Gonzalez screams “MONTRÉAL”! We scream back. He screams again, “MONTRÉAL”! WE SCREAM BACK. “Couleurs” comes back in full force after this pause and puts an end to this aural tantric tease. The pace was ridiculously quick and hardcore in the end and pushed the limits like all good encores do. Head banging. Spaces were getting distorted. People crying. Fist pumping. Jaws open. So much love. I’m sure the humidity in the room went up 20% from all our sweat and tears.
This is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long long time. Definitely one of the best encores I’ve ever seen as well. It would be so hard to top. Their studio albums don’t even compare with their live show…which is awesome and telling of what a great band they are. The best songs of the night for me were “Kim & Jessie” and obviously, “Couleurs“.
I’ve already shared some of their tunes in this post. Click here to be redirected!
Setlist: M83 @ Le S.A.T. (Montréal; 19 11 11)
02 Teen Angst%
03 Kim & Jessie^
05 Year One, One UFO*
06 We Own the Sky
07 Steve McQueen*
09 This Bright Flash*
10 Claudia Lewis*
11 Midnight City*
12 A Guitar and A Heart%
13 Skin of the Night^
* Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
^ Saturdays = Youth
% Before the Dawn Heals Us
It sucks they didn’t play anything off Digital Shades which is one of my fave M83 LPs but the selection was great regardless. I think they might have played “Gone” off of Dead Seas leading up to “A Guitar and A Heart” as well, but I’m not completely sure.
Hope you guys enjoyed the show!
Thanks again to M for Montreal and Catherine.