Anthony Gonzalez returns with an album that craves new worlds beyond this one, shunning followers, likes and empty interactions for undiscovered vistas and creatures
Anthony Gonzalez is a man in demand, but not one in a hurry. The M83 supremo has been busy with soundtracks and a second part to his Digital Shades project in recent years, considering his next move as a solo artist possessing both introvert and extravert musical personalities.
Already seven years have passed since an album release under the M83 name, the collaborative album JUNK – where Gonzalez opened the more private aspects of his musical personality, allowing a starry guestlist to take over.
Having successfully scratched that particular itch, he returns to the wide-open soundscapes of earlier albums, specifically Before The Dawn Heals Us. It becomes a template for this ninth album, a record to bear the weight of a huge world tour – yet this time the viewpoint is different.
For the Antibean is bored of the modern age. The Fantasy of the title craves new worlds beyond this one, shunning followers, likes and empty interactions for undiscovered vistas and creatures. These are represented by the cover image, a monster with ‘sad eyes and an ugly face’ developed with the help of his brother, visual artist Yann. Lyrics from songs such as Amnesia fit the mood, declaring “I’m in love with the darkness… nothing wrong with some sadness.”
The music may be consciously shying away from the recreation of anthems like the biggest M83 hit Midnight City, but it only takes one listen to Fantasy for the listener to be sorely tempted to part with their ticket money. As we have come to expect from this source, the sound itself is flawless, using chunky synth lines that blast through the sonic clouds like shafts of sunlight, with Gonzalez’s own multi-layered vocals on top.
Fantasy works as a suite in two parts. The first, released prior to the album as an extended Chapter 1, covers the first six tracks. Oceans Niagara establishes the massive panorama, with blue oceans and sky, crashing waves and billowing clouds. These are achieved with the help of regular collaborators Joe Berry and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen. A regular collaborator since 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Meldal-Johnsen has created similarly airy backdrops for Wolf Alice. Yet in spite of the huge sounds, the music and its message have an inner resonance, heard through the vocals in the restrained Radar, Far, Gone, where Chapter 1 ends.
The second chapter is longer and more indulgent yet loses little of the intensity. There are unexpected moments – especially when the title track clicks its heels to embark on a funky rollercoaster ride, let off the leash in the manner of Jean-Michel Jarre’s more experimental moments. Touching moments bound, too, such as the big-hearted Laura. And there are musical excursions to the outer limits, Gonzalez indulging himself musically – as you might expect on a record called Fantasy. Sunny Boy, after volleys of percussion, trips along at a fair old pace, while Dismemberment Bureau provides an exultant coda, finishing with a flourish.
Once again, we bear witness to a musical talent capable of shifting a listener’s ears and heart with a single change of chord, a skill brought to bear most effectively in the climax of Earth To Sea. As M83 Anthony Gonzalez makes you want to turn the volume up as loud as possible, filling the room with music and reaching for those other worlds and creatures. Fantasy, then, fuels our imagination – just at the time when musical escapism is sorely needed.