Release Date: Apr 15, 2008
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Electronic
On the strength of previous experience, early rumours, and reports of an admiring kinship between Anthony Gonzalez and James "Maps" Chapman, it did appear that the fifth M83 album was going to be Loveless to We Can Create's Isn't Anything. Given that so many of the finest fringe releases of recent months have nestled fuzzily under the nu-gaze umbrella (Kyte, Heroes Of Switzerland and the Insect Guide, for examples, would all be household names in a fairer world), you could easily argue that such a release would be both amazingly timely and amazing generally, and, while you'd be right to do so, you'd only be half right to say that Saturdays = Youth is such a record. But what a half! You, Appearing launches proceedings in extraordinarily teasing style, draping itself expansively across the stereo and showcasing darkly saccharine and compellingly oblique vocals a la Death In Vegas' classic Dirge, but, curiously, undergoes a wild diversion before arriving at Highway Of Endless Dreams, a magnificently narcoleptic fugue that buzzes tenderly, incites chilling post-Cocteaus goosebumps and sets the tone for the marathon of atmospherics that follows it.
Like fellow Frenchmen Air and Daft Punk, M83's Anthony Gonzalez has the knack for making sounds others might think of as outdated, or even tacky, into music that feels stylish and fresh. Saturdays=Youth lives up to its evocative title, but the youth it captures is filtered through nostalgia for the unrepentantly fake sounds of the '80s, transforming them into delicate fantasy pop. Synths whoosh like wind tunnels and ping like lasers, guitars are whipped into ethereal froth, the drums are robotic and proud of it, and the production reproduces the cleaner-than-clean, almost brittle style of the era almost too perfectly.
This album is a love letter to the 80s and early 90s. Think the mood of John Hughes films and the ambient pop sound of the shoegazer era and you’ll get pretty close. As you’d probably guess, this is more derivative and familiar than Anthony Gonzalez’s past work as M83, which means it’s more accessible but also less innovative and original. All the dreamy, ethereal glitter drowns the songs; the album overall is mostly about texture and nostalgia.
What’s that? An audible, intelligible voice? Singing lyrics that rhyme, in metered cadences? Yes, indeed. In violation of nearly every tenet of shoegazing, Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez has found his voice and pushed it to the front of the silky sheen of sound that has defined M83 since its inception in 2001. On fourth album Saturdays=Youth, the warm synthesizers are still in play and Gonzalez’s propensity for beguiling bombast is undiminished, but by imposing structure and melodic discipline on these sprawling compositions, he’s made them even more elegant and effective.
Like me, you may have come to love M83, the project of French electronic popist Anthony Gonzalez, for the glorious luminosity of his breakthrough singles “Run Into Flowers” and “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” both of which combined the shapeless wash of My Bloody Valentine’s guitars with the Aphex Twin’s lucid-dreaming production values. (That really makes M83 our decade’s Seefeel.) Early reports of their fourth album Saturdays = Youth sounded vaguely promising, with its talk of combining an endless teenage idyll with 1980s production values. The reality, however, is a good deal more prosaic.