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WPGM Recommends: M83 – Junk (Album Review)

M83-Junk
Tune into another extravaganza of nostalgic memories inside the mind of Anthony Gonzalez. Five years ago, the M83 founder explored the fantastical nature of childhood through compositions so celestially atmospheric, purposefully ambitious and larger-than-life that they transcended listeners to the stars above in Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

Back down on Earth, the French act’s music was respected for its John Williams-esque science-fiction evocativeness and as consequence was borrowed on rotation on numerous commercials. Unsurprisingly, M83 draw their attention to television in their seventh albumJunk. Recommended for enthusiasts of Todd Terje’s surprising classic It’s Album Time (he even had a song called “Inspector Norse”), it’s a homage to classic small screen soundtracks.

Gonzalez was dissatisfied with the lazy and identical quality of theme music of the last few decades – when you consider that many television shows either have a theme that lasts seconds (Will & Grace) or is snatched from a well-known album (Roswell), he has a great case on his hands. The result is a muliti-purpose record of Guess What It Sounds Like and an inventive project into the credentials of the art form: memorability, escapistic feel-goodness, narrative appropriateness and era definition.

Despite hailing from Antibes in France, M83 ulitlize bold brass and woodwind instruments (saxophone, french horn), friendly piano and Harold Faltermeyer-synths to reflect a British and American television theme experience. Interpreting tracks is part of the fun. “Atlantique Sud” is reminiscent of the sit-com Cheers, “Moon Crystal” is effectively Hill Street Blues, the harmonica on “Sunday Night 1987” is similar to Moonlighting, the shred guitar on “Walkaway Blues” could be from 21 Jump Street.

Furthermore, “Road Blaster” could easily be the doppleganger of a chat show from the 70’s (an observation that could be said for Todd Terje’s “Alfonso Muskedunder”)  and the countdown to “Go!” recalls Thunderbirds. The transition in concept isn’t entirely puzzling when you consider that the synths in M83 tracks such as “Claudia Lewis” have the vibe of Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F”.

What’s more clever is that M83 mixes this idea with their own idiosyncrasies to ensure it fits neatly into their anthology and has a smooth continuity from the preceding release – something more musicians should do. This includes the use of the French language, themes of longing and loneliness (“Solitude“), lush interludes with beautiful humming (“Ludvine“).

This also includes what appears to be another monologue from J.Medal-Johnsen’s daughter on the slow Bond soundtrack resemblance “For The Kids“, enthusiastic euphoria and the idea of youth reflectiveness – the title referring to the vision of historical paraphernalia floating around space lost forever – but in a less melancholic more eccentric manner.

M83 has always tread on the waters of the alternative dance label and fans of that genre will also appreciate the memory lane nod to UK-garage on “Do It, Try It” and the electric drums of Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It!” on “Bibi and The Dog” – even if the chipmunk voice cameo is unnecessary and the other production effects cloak the smart concept beneath.

Like dance producers, M83 also continue to double as agency – in a similar vein to SBTRKT for promoting new vocalist talent, from Zola Jesus to Susanne Sundfor and now compatriot Mai Lan (a cross between Camille, Katie White and MO ), whilst making the established Beck virtually unrecognisable on the Chromeo electro-funk of “Time Wind“.

Demonstrating the ability to create TV themes – possibly usurping masters such as Gary Portnoy and Mike Post – a cinematic skill that’s likely to be hired for more movies following Oblivion and unleashing tracks such as “Laser Gun” on Junk that will the attract a similar buzz as “Midnight City“, M83’s music is likely to be heard on more screens soon.

M83’s JUNK is out now via M83 Recording, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Matt Hobbs

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