Reviewed by Darcie Stevens, Fri., Aug. 27, 2004
M83Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (Mute) How programmed music can resemble nature so closely is uncanny. M83's sophomore album flows from track to track like water eroding canyons. The two 23-year-olds from the south of France have a knack for invoking emotion. All emotion. Images of fields and overgrown pastures, ghost towns and alienated youths are reflected not only in the songs, but also in Justine Kurland's fantastical cover art, Snow Angels. Visualization of cold mountains and stillness, all in the spectrum of synthesizers and drum machines. This is the evolution of electronica, a culmination of exasperation and sadness that merges into a work of art. Short opener "Birds" pulls from Radiohead, but soon such comparisons implode. "Unrecorded" reflects the Jesus & Mary Chain with its fuzziness and Kevin Shields with its sensitivity, but these are Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau's inescapable influences. Dotting the album with spare, manipulated vocals ("Run Into Flowers," "0078h"), M83 creates in Dead Cities a feeling of emptiness. "America" is full of fear with the holler of children, a gurgling baby, and then silence. But "On a White Lake, Near a Green Mountain," the anxiety is purged by a bevy of strings. Where "Run Into Flowers" is uplifting, "Gone" is heavier than the winter air. The whole much greater than its parts, Dead Cities is creation imbued and then muted again.