Beat Construction: M83

October 17, 2011

Anthony Gonzalez bottles teen glory on his biggest sounding album yet.

As M83, Anthony Gonzalez makes music that is in soft focus. It sounds like a girl with perfect skin blowing dandelion seeds, it sounds like staring right at the sun until you can’t stand it and everything turns pastel. Basically, he cuts the fat out of teenage life. Boring days in class don’t exist, routine dinners with parents are out the window, just giddy moments of love and anger and intense emotion spread out across a career that has been on a constant march to get bigger and bigger.

Gonzalez’ music has always been huge, even when it was made with cheaper equipment. His breakthrough record, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is a wall of computer noise beefed up with guitar squalls and filled in with enough heart to overpower ten scrappy, sincere teenage bands playing at once. A couple records later, Gonzalez bottled lovelorn teen dreams into a concise, poppy LP called Saturdays=Youth. His newest, the sprawling Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a combination of the two. It’s a blown out exercise in excess—Gonzalez’ dreams of a big budget soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist, fully realized. “It’s a tribute to my childhood and my relationship with my brother when we were kids,” he says. “I had the best childhood ever. When I first moved to LA, I was feeling a bit lonely. What really kept me going was to think about great memories from my childhood.”

But that shouldn’t be misconstrued as Peter Pan-esque wish fulfillment. Hurry Up deftly romanticizes all the good and bad that those teen years have to offer. Gonzalez is fond of the fuck ups that come with figuring out how to be a real, rounded adult. “Being a teen is such a special moment in your life,” he says. “You just want to have fun. You want to feel like as much as you can. This is what I recall from my teenage years: I was so confident about myself, so eager to discover new stuff and so passionate about music, about meeting new friends, about my relationships with girls. It’s all about emotions. This is how I like music to be, and this what I try to give people through my music.”

Hurry Up clocks in at an expansive one hour and 13 minutes. Like any opus, it’s far from perfect, but perfection is not what Gonzalez is striving for. Instead it emulates adolescent messiness. “I still feel like I’m a fucking teen,” Gonzalez says. “I really try to avoid adult problems like paying bills. I know I have to do it, but I hate it. I like to have fun with my friends, I like to make music, I like to watch movies, I like to party and not worry about the next day of my life.”

His everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach comes through in his music, too. The intro track is over five minutes long and features Zola Jesus’ voice glowing bright from amid a whirlwind of signature M83 synths. On “New Map” there is an enthusiastic choir, “Steve McQueen” has stadium-sized guitars. Then, just because, the first half ends on a melancholy note: “Soon, My Friend” features acoustic guitars and plaintive vocals. It’s not a bombastic conclusion, just a reflective one, like maybe after spending the previous hour grasping at lost childhood, Gonzalez is finally ready to give up on it just a little bit.

Beat Construction: M83