M83: Digital Shades Vol. 1

Elegiac and cathedralesque, M83's Digital Shades Vol. 1 was inspired by Anthony Gonzalez's love of Krautrock and Eno but sounds more like “Mysteries of Love,” Blue Velvet's transcendent David Lynch-Angelo Badalamenti collaboration, stretched out to thirty-five minutes with Julee Cruise's vocals removed. Though Digital Shades Vol. 1 is an oft-stirring and admirably succinct suite, M83 fans should know that the digital-download-only release is, as its title intimates, very different from the shoegaze pop of Before the Dawn Heals Us (the next ‘proper' M83 set is scheduled for early 2008).

It's tempting to call Digital Shades Vol. 1 an ambient outing but it's hardly wallpaper music, and a few pieces even include singing: voices rise from the deep in the stately and majestic “Coloring the Void,” and the plaintive hush that accompanies the stirring synth washes in “Sister (Part 2)” is gorgeous too. “Sister (Part 1)” oozes that mournful Badalamenti-Lynch vibe in spades while grandiose synth chords elevate “Strong and Wasted” to a lofty and beatific plane. Contrary to its title, “Dancing Mountains” is a lovely, five-minute oasis of piano-based quietude that sets the stage for “The Highest Journey,” a slow-burning outro that weaves piano and murmuring voices into a heavenly evocation. Recorded primarily at the Antibes, France-based artist's home studio (with help from Antoine Gaillet), the album's monumental, beatless shoegaze exudes a seductive pull that's hard to resist.

December 2007