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Music Review: M83 – Digital Shades, Vol. 1

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Music is an experience. For Anthony Gonzalez, his music reflects the experience that no one on this planet could enjoy without having fallen asleep. The music Gonzalez first started making was ambient and electronic, and it wasn’t until he saw that picture of the Messier 83 (M83) spiral galaxy that it all came together.

It would take many lifetimes to see whether existence in the M83 galaxy was like his aural perception of it. In the second album as a solo project, M83 pursued a return to dreamlike music that he sought to make. Digital Shades, Vol. 1 is the first collection in a hopefully long series of ambient tracks.

Despite a run time of almost 36 minutes, Digital Shades is anything but brisk. Gonzalez perfectly juxtaposes each track so that the album blends just the right way. Often times, you’d swear you were listening to a single 36-minute song.

That’s both positive and negative. As a whole, the album shouldn’t have so many different parts that it would feel choppy and uneven. On the other hand, some tracks are only two to three minutes long, which diminishes the each track’s ability to build and simply exist. This might work well, yet with something like “Strong And Wasted” (which runs just under two minutes), it seems more appropriate near the end as a sort of swan song, but being near the midpoint feels like it just comes and goes. Oddly, the latter point works on the ethereal and somewhat pseudo-pagan “Coloring The Void” and the romantic, yet poignant “By The Kiss.”

Ambient, serene, or whatever you want to call it, M83 has created an enjoyable lightly-packed assortment of heavenly being. There are moments where the M83 hits the right spot, as in “Sister (Part 1)” and “Sister (Part 2),” but ultimately the album ends, leaving the listener not wanting more but just wanting.

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