Saturdays=Youth-- the new album from French musician M83 (aka Anthony Gonzalez)-- opens with a stately piano phrase. Synths gradually overtake the piano and Gonzalez sings concise lyrics in falsetto-- "It's your face/ Where are we?/ Save me"-- amid billowing harmonies. It's the sort of big, beatless slow-burn he often uses to dramatize an impending pivot, a moment when the percussion gallops in and the song takes off for the stratosphere. But on this track, "You,
Appearing", that pivot never arrives. Instead, the music tapers off into the booming overture of "Kim & Jessie". Saturdays=Youth is still huge music, with three players in addition to Gonzalez-- but it has a different kind of heft from previous M83 records. On Before the Dawn Heals Us, M83 was all about the vertical push-- layer after layer of synths and drums piled up in a vertiginous tower. But these new songs disperse in all directions: Producers Ewan Pearson and Ken Thomas spread the melodies and beats into a sound world of uncommon vibrancy and pristine clarity, mounted on a massive yet now more proportionate scale.
Still M83's most accomplished album, Saturdays = Youth is terrifically moody French electronica that never spirals into pretentious nonsense and yet doesn't aspire to be a cross-over dance record, either. In finding this harmonious sweet-spot, Gonzalez absolutely nails some truly haunting tunes (which, impressively, stand distinct and independent of one another but also contribute to a greater whole), perfect for a late night drive.