Listening stations in major music stores really suck. There's always some dolt who doesn't know how to use it ("SCAN HERE" is never in his or her vocabulary), or someone's playing mind-numbingly awful music with the volume at 11 so that everyone in the store can hear the decline of western civilization without ever having to leave their place in line. Every once in a while, though, the accursed contraptions prove useful (and no, I'm not talking about seeing whether or not the string tribute to Evanescence is a joke or not). M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is one of the very, very few albums that's bought me hook, line, and sinker solely from a 30-second clip of one of its songs.
This record was released in 2003 under the French electronic label Gooom, but was only available as an import until July of this year, when it was re-released in a shiny, new, (and most importantly) expanded edition in North America through Mute. I found a copy and immediately bought it after previewing it on a Borders listening station. If you're familiar with my relatively conservative buying habits, that alone should speak volumes about this consistently amazing album's sound, but if you're not one of the lucky, lucky people who has ever received a gift from me, then maybe you should just read the review.
The album's under-a-minute intro "Birds" starts things off in Boards of Canada territory, with, true to its name, birds chirping. An uneasy, electronic voice recites, "Sun is shining/ birds are singing/ flowers are growing/ clouds are looming and I am flying," which serves as a sort of "This is your captain speaking..." monologue, preparing you for the journey ahead. From there, the album explodes into the absolutely HUGE "Unrecorded." A towering, swirling, hypnotic, shoe-gazing affair, its first few chords elicited the same sort of stunned awe that I experienced upon my first listening to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Though I may take some crap for comparing any band that isn't My Bloody Valentine to My Bloody Valentine, M83 is certainly worthy of this compliment. Layers and layers of buzzing melodies, synth strings belting out from the back, and a simple, steady drum machine all combine to create a wall of sound that Phil Spector never could have dreamed of.
After I finished listening to "Unrecorded" for the first time, I had the extreme pleasure of realizing that the album never retreads this phenomenal, mountain-moving sound. "America" starts off with quietly ominous synths and uneasy vocal samples before bursting into its crimson, chaotic, maelstrom of a midsection, overflowing with pure sound, only to abruptly hush itself and then eventually climax again. And all within the space of three minutes! "Run Into Flowers," the heart of Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts, incorporates ethereal vocals, overstated (in a good way) beats, and memorably melancholic, layered synth lines into the mix to evoke a dreamy, otherworldly feeling that will stay within you long after the track's end.
Though I've only discussed a few, every track on this masterpiece is a definite highlight. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is an album that takes the listener into an entirely separate universe for just under an hour and is ideally experienced as a whole. It is simply one of the most beautiful albums I have ever heard. Buy it, pop it in your CD player, and turn it the fuck up.
9.7 / 10
The French are good at many things. Food. Art. Aquatic nuclear shenanigans. But despite being one of the cultural centers of Europe, France never seems to have really mastered music. ...
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.