By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
On their self-titled debut and 2003’s breakthrough Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, the French duo M83 meticulously created a vibrant universe of rushing post-rock, epic shoegaze and cosmic electronica. Even once Nicolas Fromageau departed the project, Anthony Gonzalez continued, creating and self-producing 2005’s majestic follow-up, Before the Dawn Heals Us.
On last year’s Saturdays = Youth, however, he took risks by enlisting producers, an LA pop singer and a more structured pop sound, inspired by the movies and music of the ’80s.
“I just wanted to do something different,” says Gonzalez in a palpable French accent. “My music [has been] very shoegaze since the beginning. I just wanted to have something more fresh and maybe more easy listening. That’s why I chose to make it more pop and more light. Even if people like the sound of the previous albums, they will recognize the M83 sound in this album. This is just a different road I take.”
Co-produced by Ewan Pearson (Ladytron, the Rapture) and Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, Suede), Saturdays = Youth features multi-instrumental work by Loic Maurin, along with vocals and keys by Morgan Kibby, singer of LA band the Romanovs. Between Kibby’s ethereal presence, Gonzalez’s own softly earnest singing, and the decidedly retro feel to the armies of synths, the songs are a gorgeous fusion of lush art-pop from the heyday of 4AD’s roster and the glossy mooning of ’80s radio. Gonzales has said that the album’s primary influences were the Cocteau Twins (with whom Thomas has worked), Tears for Fears and soundtracks of John Hughes movies. That said, he didn’t exactly tear down the M83 model.
“The making of this album wasn’t that different from the previous ones,” he explains, “except we worked with producers. On the previous albums, I did everything by myself with a sound engineer. I think it was important for me to share my music with other people on this album.”
As for introducing Kibby’s dreamy spoken-word passages and wavering vocals—which summon Kate Bush and even reference her beloved album Hounds of Love in the lyrics of “Up!”—Gonzalez simply says, “She’s very, very talented, and she has a really wonderful voice. I think her voice fits perfectly with the music of this album.” She’s joining the band on tour, he adds.
Though there’s a renewed earnestness to the single “Graveyard Girl” and other tracks, Saturdays = Youth still boasts long, gravity-defying expanses without words. It remains music to get lost in, much like a particularly transporting soundtrack. Given how many times his music has been called cinematic, it’s exciting to learn that Gonzalez composed music for the forthcoming film Tiny Dancer. While on the subject, he does nothing to downplay the impact movies have had on M83.
“Cinema is even more important [than] music for me,” he confirms. “I’m [always] watching a lot of movies and listening to a lot of movie soundtracks. So it’s a big, big influence, especially for this album. I think it can be way more powerful than music because it combines music and pictures. And when the mix is really well-made, it can be very touching and beautiful. That’s why I love movies and I want to be involved in movie soundtracks. I really want to do that in the future.”
For now, though, M83 have an awful lot of touring to do. Following the band’s short West Coast jaunt, Gonzalez and company will return to Europe for more than a dozen dates supporting Depeche Mode. If that sounds daunting, keep in mind the band have toured with Kings of Leon and the Killers and recently played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at a sold-out Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition to taking M83 on the road and craving soundtrack work, Gonzalez has kept busy with remixes, drastically transforming the work of everyone from upcoming tour mates Depeche Mode to Bloc Party to Midnight Juggernauts.
“It’s a really fun exercise for me,” Gonzalez says. “I can try things I wouldn’t try for my albums. It’s great to work on other people’s music. I only keep the vocals, and I change the [rest] of it, so it becomes a new song. That’s a really interesting process.”
With a laugh, he decides, “It’s like sharing your girlfriend with another boy.”
M83 with DJ White Marsh and James Yuill at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Wed., 7 p.m. $20. All ages.