M83 = Catharsis
Digital Shades Vol. 1 (Mute) is the first in a series of cinematic recordings from M83 architect of ambience and emotional feng shui master Anthony Gonzalez. These recordings, almost impossible to describe, are mood music fit for a Hollywood montage. Almost every track has an overt auditory relation to Brian Eno’s seminal “An Ending (Ascent)” with their ability to internalize the listener towards introspective musing and wonderment. Fans of M83's proper releases will recognize Gonzalez' delicate vocal styling and penchant for creating music for an IMAX trip through the galaxy. The album is so seamless that it could easily work as two or three longer tracks, but is instead cut into ten, most of which are similar to the one previous. The album does progress however, exploring new directions but never reaching the indulgent peaks that many fans of electronic music search for these days. Fueled with positive tension, Digital Shades is an exploration of the mind. It is hard to imagine someone taking in this record and not having a different outlook 36 minutes later.
The opening tune envelops the listener in an oscillating wave of synthesizers and the soothing reassurance of one of those lo-frequency wave sleep machines. "Coloring the Void" follows and is the most impactful tune of the record. With a droningly repetitive chorale and a pulverizing intensity that benevolently reminds of a Dream Academy tune, this song has the ability to incite wanderlust and meditative bliss. "Sister (Part 1)" is a transitory track, providing a bridge to another ethereal phase of soundscapes and galactic mysticism. "Sister (Part 2)" sounds like a downtempo Nine Inch Nails tune that never gets all the way off the ground. The album's closing track, "Highest Journey," is an exquisite crescendo that encapsulates the mood of the album replete with backing vocals, heavy, driving otherworldly synths and even a little sprawling guitar work approaching a nonexistent peak before subsiding to an austere piano outro that fades towards a black hole. Gonzalez has the ability to bend time and make 36 minutes stretch on for days. Shoegazing hasn’t been this enjoyable in awhile.