Adventures in a blurry sonic landscape

M83 has one of the largest sounds in electronic music today. Almost every track on their newest U.S. release, Before the Dawn Heals Us, soars with a synthesized intensity that rivals even the most ecstatic Pink Floyd climaxes, which is why meeting Anthony Gonzalez is so disarming. As one of the producers and performers, responsible for putting together this diverse and overpowering sound, he can best be described as cute. Shy and terribly soft-spoken, he has a demeanor that belies the energy of his music.

Gonzalez found his musical inspiration in the electronic sounds of ’70s and ’80s prog rock. This is not a surprising revelation considering that the frigid landscapes of his first U.S release, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, could easily be applied as a backdrop to any number of sci-fi films from the late 20th century. However, unlike Dead Cities, his latest U.S. release aims more for a pop aesthetic, sounding more like a slick, late-night Autobahn adventure than a joyride through the apocalypse.

“My music evolves with the time,” Gonzalez said before a recent show at Holocene. “I need to make a different record each time, with different kind of production and different kind of songs.”

These “different kind of songs” have created quite a stir in the U.S. electronic community in large part because they update a sonic quality that has been largely absent from modern music since the disappearance of Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and others.

“My music is just a mix of all my influences. I love ambient music from the ’70s,” Gonzalez said, also noting his appreciation of mid-’90s rock.

This mix of ambient synthesizers and progressive rock guitars may seem like an incongruous outcome considering that, as a boy, Gonzalez was inspired to learn how to play guitar after hearing bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. He started rock bands with friends but soon wanted to “discover new sounds.” Discovery occurred in the circuitry of the samplers and keyboards he collected. Before long, he had cut the demo which would start him on “the adventure of M83,” which began with a self-titled record that had limited release in Europe but will be released stateside this June. “It’s a very electronic record,” Gonzalez said. “We did it in my room in, maybe, one week.”

There is a big possibility that the re-release of M83’s first album in the states will sell far better than any of the band’s records have sold in France, their country of origin. “People in France are looking for English or American bands,” Gonzalez noted. “We have most success in U.S. People are more interested in this kind of music here. They are more open-minded.”

It might be that, as an audience, fans from the United States are particularly susceptible to the images that M83 attempts to produce through sound. “I like the relationship between music and pictures,” Gonzales said. “It’s very important for a band like M83. When you listen to this record [Before the Dawn Heals Us] you can imagine your own story.”

This may be the most appealing aspect of M83: In a world that demands our attention be spread across numerous media during every waking hour, it is good to know that M83 would like us to sit down, close our eyes and drift into a world of improbable electronic landscapes where the story we imagine is our own.