M83 Digital Shades Vol. 1

[Gooom; 2007]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: ambient electronica, time-lapse photography
Others: {Another Green World}

This little one-off from M83's Anthony Gonzalez, despite being touted as "the beginning of a new period of activity for M83," doesn't give us much more than he's offered before. If you've heard Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts' "On A White Lake Near A Green Mountain" or Before The Dawn Heals Us' "Slight Night Shiver" (what mouthfuls), you've heard Digital Shades Vol. 1.

Almost all of the record's 35 minutes adheres to the same template: washy synths ebb through four chords of overwrought emotion; repeat. Every piece here is distinctly lacking in percussion, although the occasional crescendos of buzz lend some weight to the otherwise effluvial tone. Brian Eno is an obvious touchstone, and one that the promotional material makes sure to mention; "My Own Strange Path" is practically a tribute to Another Green World's "Becalmed." But even stripped of its jauntier tendencies, Eno's work possesses a prismatic emotional breadth that Digital Shades simply can't achieve. It's too aggressive to be the kind of hauntingly spare minimalist work it might have been, but it's too repetitive to be engaging. It's a bit shallow, graceless, and, frankly, boring. It is pretty, nevertheless, but that ‘majestic resignation’ thing Gonzalez does can only go so far.

Tracks similar to these on earlier M83 albums served the very specific purpose of providing a counterweight to the adjacent aural onslaughts. Digital Shades Vol. 1 is little more than a distilled version of those moments and resembles what I imagine M83 might sound like to people who don't like them all that much. Promisingly, this is the first of "an ongoing series," so we can safely hope that M83's future ‘proper’ releases will remain as bombastic, rich, and nuanced as we've known Gonzalez to be.

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