Monday, December 19, 2011

"Hurry Up, We're Dreaming:" M83's Perfect Nostalgia

Music is often described as “dreamlike,” a description that points to music’s capacity as a medium to re-imagine and perceive reality in alternative ways. Conceptually, M83’s most current release Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a grandiose exploration of dreaming's elusive nature, so it seems a little too easy to resort to this tried-and true description.

But when M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez dreams, he dreams the dreams of Donnie Darko. Awash in synth and reverb, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming turns the pop conventions of the past into a distinctly 21st century psychedelia, in which the saxophone is somehow more epic than the guitar and the arena is more intimate than the club. If nostalgia had its own melody, played on a complex instrument of sight and sound, M83’s recreation of idealized 80s teen angst would be a virtuosic symphony. 

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, however, isn’t really an 80s rehash - certainly less so than its 2008 predecessor Saturdays=Youth. It’s far too expansive and bold to be authentically of that era. However, like Pink Floyd and Sigur Ros, M83 ‘s music harbors the capacity to suggest that there is a more subtle narrative hidden within its distinctive atmospheres. The melodic and structural shape of M83’s compositions infuse the simple, everyday task of driving down the highway at sunset with a vivid, romantic emotionalism that is, predictably, difficult to verbalize.

Steve McQueen by M83 on Grooveshark

The album’s nostalgia influences its physical shape, as well. The CD is printed as a double album, a notoriously difficult format that has no real meaning in our evolving "media cloud" culture. Gonzalez, however, intends for the listener to listen to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming as a whole experience, rather than consumed in a shuffled playlist. The album has several instrumental viginettes that connect its more anthemic "singles," and this connective tissue might seem like filler when taken out of context. Within the framework of the album, however, they create narrative depth and unity that connects Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming with the concept album tradition. If there were a more direct segues between tracks, this trait would be even more noticeable.

Nostalgia, in and of itself, is not a negative phenomenon, but it can be limiting. Music is often a trigger for memories that are linked to a particular moment in time, which are the fuels that fire nostalgia.  As much as music cultivates these fond recollections, their idealized reconstruction can obscure the potential of the present.  This is when people get in a musical "rut," listening to the same old stuff.  M83 intentionally travels through the present to the past. Whether the 80s succeeded in predicting the future or nostalgia caused this prophecy to be self-fulfilling is probably less important than the overall success of Hurry Up, We're Dreaming in bridging this gap.  I also predict that the album will reveal deeper musical layers as the months and years imbue it with its own nostalgic value.

1 comment:

  1. The more I listen to this album, the more I feel like I'm listening to the soundtrack for a dream or a series of dreams. Several of the songs are nostalgic, heartbreaking, and uplifting all at once. I absolutely love it.