Formed in 2001, electronic duo M83 set out to quietly unleash their brand of shoegaze onto the French music scene. Slowly but surely, the ambient sound of Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau trickled into the rest of Europe.
Gonzalez originally got the idea for his band name while looking in an astronomy book and caught his eyes on the alluring and expansive Messier 83 spiral galaxy. At that moment, he made music as M83.
The Antibes-native duo debuted their self-titled LP later that year, which finally saw its United States official release in 2005. M83 is surprisingly polished for a first-time record as compared with other electronic groups. I'm not talking production but more musical focus, at least in M83 terms.
The band does branch out a little in experimenting, as with their brief dabs in noise pop (an ode to earlier shoegazers) and lush synth transition in "Night" and with the robotic echoes that are unexpectedly not jarring in the futuristic techno track "Kelly." The following "Sitting" contrasts much of the album and much of the band's catalog with its straight-up techno beat sans any kind of vintage M83 pseudo-hybridization. That sounds weird to say but it's also weird to listen to such a consistently non-rigid M83 track.
It isn't until the second half that we notice the humble beginnings of a core M83 foundation. "Facing That" offers a sample of their fascination with reverb. In these case of "Violet Tree" the reverb is piercing as an natural extension of the preceding track, weaving between commiseration and heartbreaking sadness in the juxtaposed two-part epic.
Part of M83's allure is their willingness to adjust and vary. As noticed by many of their somewhat frenzied songs, the duo never wants to get stale. However, they sometimes hit the right dream pop note ("At The Party" and "My Face") and unfortunately never seem to want to find out where the ambiance will take them. As minute-long tracks, they sound out-of-place but then again I guess that's just M83 for you.