If you’ve never embarked on a disruptive flight into apocalyptic space, you will have done after you’ve heard Before The Dawn Heals Us. The third album by M83, aka one-man French multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez, is so strewn with synaesthetic soundscapes that it really doesn’t make for easy listening.
The great rock drama is created by fusing different technologies so that guitars sound like synths and likewise synths sound like power chord guitars. Combine and overdub the two and you get an unusual sounding gothicky organ as well as what sounds like a choir of robotic angels.
Epic in its quest to ‘transport’ its audience into a stratospheric void, the album is indeed adventurous, but also utterly failed to achieve lift-off with this particular space cadet-cum-critic.
For starters, the album as a whole is irritatingly samey. The same gothic organ bludgeons down blocky chords in almost every song. It also manages to maintain the sound of a cheap eighties synth symphony throughout. In the beatless track three, In The Cold I’m Standing, the organ drones on while an unwelcome panpipe whistles in the distance. Farewell/Goodbye has the echoey-cathedral synth performing some jaunty pas de deux, while another nebulous torrent of tinny chords pop up in Teen Angst.
With the repetition also comes excruciatingly tacky otherworldly narratives as well as simple melodies and chord structures. Some of the more ephemeral tracks such as I Guess I’m Floating has a meditative quality with its stark notes and audio of a lively children’s playground.
While ninth track Can’t Stop wins an award for the most stupid song, with its high electronicised voice shrieking “can’t stop yeah” for what seems like an eternity. Likewise, senseless simplicity rears its spaced-out head in Let Men Burn Stars, which features the euphoric explosions of a community firework display behind floaty ‘ahhhs’ and that damned gothic synth again.
Car Chase Terror! is a highlight because it’s pretty much the only sense-provoking track going on this album. It’s so very odd and rather disturbing in fact. In the vein of a cheap American pyscho thriller, the narrative is of a terrifed mom and her equally agitated young daughter inside a parked car on a dark motorway. Cars woosh by and crickets chirp until, would you believe, the pair are chased by a killer monster.
So, when the album isn’t littered with slivers from lost soundtracks to cheap vampire movies or tacky eighties funeral parlours, it brings to mind an imaginary scene where E.T. meets the Teletubbies. It ‘transported’ me to a place I don’t care to visit again, especially when I heard the heinously thumping Fields, Shorelines And Hunters, which transported me straight into somebody’s migraine. No thanks.