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M83

Digital Shades Vol. 1 LP

Ambient music is one of M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez's formative influences, and you can hear traces of it in his music-- especially on "Unrecorded" or "In Church" from 2003's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. The funny thing is that M83, in general, is the antithesis of ambient music: The latter slips into the background; the former saturates the foreground. But on the first volume of his Digital Shades series, which serves to document his ambient recordings, the maximalist composer attempts to get back to his minimal roots.
 
Brian Eno, ambient music's definitive figure, is a self-professed influence of Gonzalez's, and his mark is all over this album. It's impossible to hear broad piano figures plinking in a deep field of tone without being reminded of Eno's pacesetting Ambient 1: Music for Airports, a record that even came with its own manifesto: "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."
 
By Eno's definition, Digital Shades Vol. 1 is ambient only in the most literal sense: sound fills the air. The interpretative openness Eno stresses is absent from the record, which can be pretty handily interpreted in one way: It's an M83 album without the pummeling percussion. If purely ambient music is like sand slipping through your fingers, felt but ungraspable, Digital Shades is more like a rope sliding through your palm, laced with friction where the music hijacks your attention. "Coloring the Void" opens with an angelic chorale, a retiring guitar figure chiming in the background, and Gonzalez's muffled soft rock vocals-- all of which will be immediately familiar to M83 fans. Beyond the humming tone that wreathes it all, it's just M83 on muscle relaxers.
 
-- Pitchfork
 
2015 Reissue
item # 39820
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