M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming combines ambient roots with pop sensibilities
We reassess the album in anticipation of the Frenchman's upcoming UK tour
The Associates’ Alan Rankine once opined that the best way to make an album is to ‘start with a climax, then go further.’ It’s a maxim that Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez – an Antibes-born, LA-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with an idiosyncratic taste for refracting luxuriant 80s pop through a prism of hazy electronica and shoegaze – could be said to have taken to a certain extreme on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the sixth album of M83’s now ten-year lifespan. From the pummelling ‘Intro’, featuring a glistening vocal cameo from Zola Jesus, through ‘My Tears Are Becoming a Sea’ (the title says it all really) to the Mogwai-with-synths quiet-loud crash of ‘Echoes of Mine’, it’s epic, star-gazing crescendo piled-upon epic, star-gazing crescendo across two discs from a band appropriately enough named after a galaxy.
The critical reception has been fairly mixed. Pitchfork for one rated it their third best album of 2011 and declared lead single ‘Midnight City’ their track of the year. Other reviewers have expressed frustration at Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’s sprawling length and drifting focus. Whatever your opinion, you have to admire Gonzalez’ bloody-minded ambition to stride on from his ambient instrumental roots, push to its limit and beyond the new big pop direction he realised so exquisitely throughout the euphoric nostalgia trip of 2009’s Saturdays = Youth – a record that raised M83 out of club venues and into arenas as an opening act for Kings of Leon and The Killers – and capture the cacophony of evidently less-than-subtle noises going-off in his head.
‘Midnight City’s’ triumphant sax solo outro suggests Clarence Clemons moonlighting with Jean Michel Jarre; the crashing drum intro of ‘Reunion’ recalls Simple Minds at their most fist-pumpingly pompous while some of the more atmospheric moments appear to fancy themselves as being reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Apollo, which would pretty much be the sound of the cosmos itself if it had one. If that all seems a bit much, that’s probably the idea.
The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 19 Jan.