M83 - DSVII - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab


by Joseph Majsterski Rating:5 Release Date:2019-09-20

M83, the essentially solo project of Anthony Gonzalez, knocked it out of the part with 2016's Junk, a sprawling, wild mess of 80s nostalgia. New album DSVII, the sequel to 2007's Digital Shades Vol. 1, bills itself as a different flavor of 80s style, more video game than sitcom. It does take some cues from Junk, but also sounds like the dollar bins Gonzalez dug through this time were heavily larded with New Age music.

Every time I start the first track of DSVII, 'Hell Riders', I think something's wrong with whatever device I'm using before I remember it's really quiet at first and takes about two minutes to get going. That's a fairly accurate summary of the album overall: there's occasionally some build-up, but it doesn't resolve itself into anything very often. One key difference with this album is that it's entirely instrumental, outside of some non-verbal samples, unlike the vocal-centric Junk. Even without the singing, some tracks preserve the vibe of that album, such as 'A Bit of Sweetness', where you can hear an echo of Christopher Cross in the air.

Weirdly, 'Feelings' really does take me back to the 1980s video game scene when it starts up, specifically the overland music from the game Dragon Warrior. There's a very particular sense of a fantasy world that's open and ready to explore. The song gets a little greasier, thanks to some slick synths, and loses that ultra-narrow meaning, but then meanders back again to where it began. There are a lot of layers to what's happening.

The set is dominated by quasi-ambient electronic though. 'Goodbye Captain Lee' is by turns New Age, Enoesque, and Kraftwerkian, with a light powdering of disco cheese on top. 'A Taste of the Dusk' is like the intermission music for an arthouse film. 'Lunar Son' sounds like the theme song for a public access TV show, like a poor man's Star Hustler. 'Jeux D'Enfants' and 'Taifun Glory' are a pair of brief piano pieces that are pleasant enough, but not profoundly compelling, as they don't craft a coherent mood, seemingly unable to decide if they're upbeat, mournful, or determined. They're just kind of there. 'Oh Yes You're There, Everyday', same thing, lots of piano and some new-age synths that make me feel claustrophobic and itchy. In fact, a lot of the songs are almost like elevator music in their inoffensive blandness. There's nothing to complain about, but there's nothing to get excited about either.

Some of these excursions are more successful though, such as 'Mirage', which lets wave after wave of soothing pads wash over your brain with string accents to add some glisten. 'Goodbye Captain Lee' has more depth, sweet without being saccharine, and delicately managing the camp. And closer 'Temple of Sorrow' adds some much-needed bombast in its second half that finally gives some energy and purpose to the set. But for the most part, it's hard to actually distinguish one track from another, as they all blend into a tepid slurry of sound.

After the mad success of Junk, which was both experimental and an oddly comforting throwback, DSVII is a pretty big disappointment. It's not bad, precisely, but it's not good either, and it's definitely not very interesting. If you're a big fan of barely noticeable background music that won't intrude upon your ears, this might be okay, but it's simply not all that captivating for the rest of us.

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M83 - DSVII - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
M83 - Junk
  • 03/11/2016
  • By Joseph Majsterski