Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala released their third album, Currents, nearly a year ago, and the album marked an evolution in their sound. Much more synth-based than its predecessors, the album met with critical acclaim and increased the band’s popularity. This could be seen in the DC area simply by the shift upward in venues – when the band last came to the city, a month before the album’s release, they headlined the Echostage. This time, on their return, they took over Merriweather Post Pavilion for a rainy Thursday evening show, their biggest headlining gig in the area so far. Even the threat of severe thunderstorms couldn’t dampen the spirit of the crowd.
SOUNDS LIKE: Washed Out, M83, Purity Ring
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: A considerably more pop-friendly tune than anything on their stellar 2011 debut album Hearts, but just as dark in subject matter.
It’s hard to judge a soundtrack purely on its own merits, out of context from the film for which it was originally intended, and by which it may have been inspired. This gets even dicier without having seen said film... More so yet when trying to attribute that work to a well-known, zeitgeist-shaping artist -- Anthony Gonzales, better known as M83 -- with full knowledge that he isn’t working alone here. (See also: partner in Oblivion crime Joseph Trapanese, of Tron: Uprising and The Raid: Redemption fame.)
That said, from this usually-collaborative effort’s sparse yet swelling opening notes, to M83’s own new song -- this soundtrack’s closing number and title score, featuring Norwegian vocalist Susanne Sundfør -- Oblivion (the album) should as a whole work very well in its intended context (i.e. draped over a big-budget Tom Cruise action movie, taken in at an overcrowded IMAX movieplex with HD surround sound and all the concessions). Which is also to say that its brand of cool can hardly be called understated: mod indie-noir soundtrack this is not. And that’s okay; obscurity is not for everyone. Because sometimes you just need another Tom Cruise running scene, complete with anxious violin triplets to accompany the ever-building chase.
Of course, it does raise the question, “Is this really even an M83 album?” It also raises the tougher question,“What is an M83 album?” -- an open inquiry in the aftermath of 2011’s then-grandiose, now-legendary Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Once-cocooned M83 has indeed completed his broad metamorphosis, suggesting his mass “Muse-ification” may now be fully underway: an “uber-epicness” whose roots were always present in the work, but once allowed to fully manifest, went totally astral, leaving a trail of sci-fi stardust so hard to follow it eventually exceeded its own critical mass, ending in a boom more implosive than expansive -- more fizzle than sparkle, more style than substance -- leaving but the shadow of a bloated alien race eclipsing the original spark of life. Twilight, some might say, ever-dwindling.
It was a perfect October day for a near-perfect festival. And much as the sun shone brightly before storm clouds threatened (but in the end only brought relief and an autumn crisp), the difference between a good set and a great one was, more often than not, a mere matter of luck: getting a good spot, being at the right place at the right time, finding warmth amid the chill, knowing some limits, and holding onto the light, lest ALL be swallowed by darkness!
Pulling up to Columbia MD’s tailgate-friendly Merriweather Post Pavilion is generally fine times and smooth sailing, and on this beautiful day, parking was no exception. Despite tens of thousands of concertgoers filing in for Saturday’s all-day 2012 Virgin Mobile FreeFest -- over 30,000 officially reported, though some suspect well over last year’s 50,000 mark -- all went without hiccups. Overflow traffic was directed clearly from the main lot (South Entrance) to a free North Entrance garage, and wouldn’t you know, the detours and concrete enclosures didn’t appear to deter the tailgaters’ pregaming in the slightest?
Just beyond the North Entrance was the eternal boom of the Dance Forest. Lucky last-minute addition, D.C. hometown boys VOLTA BUREAU, were warming up the festival crowd with some serious dance tunes. U Street Music Hall co-founder and longtime pillar and champion of the District’s dance music community, Will Eastman, and his Volta Bureau bandmate, vocalist/DJ/producer Bernard Farley, a.k.a. Outputmessage, were both on the decks, spreading good vibes with great sound; crowds of gathering revelers shook it among the stately trees, and with plenty of space to spare. Between one another, Eastman and Farley toggled mixer channels; disco house, breakbeats and progressive; and DJing skills with a side of audience interaction -- most notably in the form of a smiling Eastman batting beach balls into the crowd, dousing dancers with water, sharing stickers, singing, clapping, and showing love for D.C. and FreeFest, all while Farley deftly manned the mix. In a day chock full of talent, such exchanges were the key to crafting a memorable performance; Volta Bureau closed their set with chart-topping 2011 favorite “Alley Cat” and should be credited for nothing short of saving the day after DAS RACIST’s strep-induced last-second cancellation.
The purpose of dance music is to make people shake their ass, but that doesn’t often happen in the comfort of your own home or on your daily ride to work on the Metro. It happens, or is meant to happen, on the dance floor. Couple that with the simple fact that it really doesn’t take much to get people’s asses moving, and you can maybe see where I’m coming from. For me, dance/electronica is an art form that too often get’s dragged down the seventh circle of synthesized hell where dorm room/Garageband using stoners crank out repetitive rhythm after repetitive rhythm while they stare at the pretty lights bobbing in time to their “creations” and think “Whoa man. Crispy”
On the other hand though, there’s M83.
The Good News:
French musician Anthony Gonzalez aka M83 is beginning is beginning his world tour right here in DC tonight at The Black Cat!
The Bad News:
That s@#@ sold out MONTHS ago, yo!
Got your ticket? We certainly hope so. Seeing Gonzalez's "very very very epic" new album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (read our review here) brought to life on the stage should be, well, epic. So epic in fact that they had to add another show giving you not one but TWO chances to get your electro-dreampop freakout on.
Or maybe he just needs all that time to get through all of the songs on this gigantic album.
Either way, we've been looking forward to this show for a long time, and now the day is finally here. For those of you not in the door, NEVER FEAR because we have it on good authority that they'll be back this Spring, so be at the ready. And if you really can't wait that long, your old friend Craigslist is always there, waiting to give you what you need.
So get excited people! We'll see you at the early show (#weareold) and be telling you all about it sometime this weekend. Here's to what is sure to be a very, very, very epic Friday night!
Words: Roddy Rasti
To say Anthony Gonzales, aka M83,’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – a double LP allegedly crafted in some ineffable light of Life, Art and Growth; bearing the shadows of Nostalgia, Change and Impermanence; and cast upon the Extraterrestrial Landscapes of the Surrealist Subconscious – is for everybody would no doubt be as ridiculous as it sounds a gross overstatement. But, to call it pretentiously French a beyond-lofty project with a near-inescapable event horizon seems like an apt summation. Try calling it anything else. In fact, try not calling it at all – just turn your back and ignore it; I dare you. You’d do just as well trying to approach it non-critically.
The truth is, any approach is doomed from the very get-go. Resistance is futile. Its gravity, even if of the anti- variety, is palpable for reasons you’ll soon inevitably come to know. So buckle up, because there’s going to be a ride, and whether or not its rock will suffice to match its roll is, by its own design, all that’s left to discuss.
As a fan of M83’s previous work, I’m no stranger to his songwriting style and trademark dramatics. This apparently shy but unmistakably talented arty French producer and songwriter has long had a gift for the evocative, while bordering the overwrought. This is not music for the subtly inclined; this is urgency for the young, hungry, tempestuous and seemingly invincible. His signature sound has been known to marry the effect-drenched lushness of shoegaze, the stormily emotive landscapes and volatile dynamics of post-rock, an acid-washed jean jacket’s worth of Molly-Ringwaldian ‘80s reminiscence, and many manic fistpumps full of slick danceable Euro Disco Electro beats.
Altogether, the result is typically part silent-film score (of the urban time-lapsed variety), part danceable 80s nostalgia, part shoegaze emo psychodrama, part electropop hipsteralia, and part dream-infused space-rock – a combination uniquely well suited for the peaks and valleys of both pubescent love and long-term space voyages to distant galaxies, heralding both triumph and loss yet unmatched in the cumulative history of universe and humanity!!
This is not hyperbole. This is without exaggeration M83’s typical sound on a normal day.
From the 80's yesterday straight back to the...80's? It's never the wrong time for a sax solo, and so electronic artist M83 (aka Anthony Gonzalez) treads new/old ground by ripping one straight out of Miami Vice to close out this track. But you know what? It works. This track, despite all it's new fangled buzzing and tweaking, takes me back to the time of DX-7's and Human League dominance. And that's a very VERY good thing.
M83's new DOUBLE ALBUM Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, comes out in the Fall (October 18), so you just gonna have to wait a while for that, but "Midnight City" should be enough fun to hold you over in the meantime. If you'd like to have this track as your very own, head on over to M83's site where they are offering a free download in exchange for a wee email. Fair trade I'd say.
Also, don't forget that M83 will be appearing at DC's very own Black Cat on October 28th, so get your tickets NOW!
M83 - Midnight City