Slimmed to Anthony Gonzales, M83 follow up Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts with a work focusing more on live instrumentation and vocals. Suffice to say the vocals act as another layer here, rather than a dominating force. This is apt as Before the Dawn Heals Us flows well, in the manner of an excellent stage backdrop. One has to concentrate to notice the different segments within an enticing whole. Individual tracks sound highly appropriate in the context of the widespread body of work. For example “Fields, Shorelines and Hunters” would sound like a nice, punctured intro to a Bloc Party song cut short with static and baby-making noises. When listening to the album start to finish it sets the pace perfectly for “*” which sounds like Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia… re-enacting something worse than a nightmare. The combination of these two made me go and check that my apartment door was locked.
The album opens with “Moonchild,” evocative of both Wish You Were Here and Moon Safari. There’s something unpolished about the way the drums clatter which combines well with the rest of the music (imagine a Nivea commercial crossed with the introduction to the planet eating scene from Transformers: The Movie). A traditional prog-rock influence seems apparent here, as well. “In the Cold I’m Standing” merges Gainsbourg and Boards of Canada over something that approaches Genesis. Occasionally the low tempo moments grated on me. “Farewell/Goodbye” made me think of Enya assassinating Baby Mammoth, (then I tried listening to it at low volume with the lights off and things were lovely). However the somber and sublime moments keep Before measured and beautiful. “I Guess I’m Floating” has fantastic production. “Can’t stop” makes me suspect that Kevin Shields has spent some time remixing the least imposing parts of Abba songs to the point that you touch and its digital.
There are also stitch-kissing tunes here. “Don’t Save Us From the Flames” makes like My Bloody Valentine with a subtle Daft Punk edge. Lyrics matter little, when a guitar sounds so clean and so impressively fragmented. “Teen Angst” ironically sounds like drive-time music for Robert Smith after a hard day’s work defeating monsters. It’s a mixture of U2, Electronic and tire adverts that works surprisingly well. Proceedings are closed with “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun.” The song recalls slow-motion Blue Lines era Massive attack and the transcendental bits of Screamadelica with an Eno-coating. It made me want to walk outside of my apartment and carry on until I saw something new. Even a bad beer commercial couldn’t ruin it.
I must admit that it took a couple of plays for all of this to percolate, for there’s a lot to digest within limited space. However recent listening to Before the Dawn Heals Us leaves me both impressed and fulfilled.
Air – Talkie Walkie
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Manitoba – Up in Flames