Album: M83 – Digital Shades Vol. 1 (Gooom / EMI 2007)

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Digital Shades isn’t the next ‘official’ M83 album, rather the first in a series of more ambient workings aimed primarily at the digital download market (hence the title). It is available on CD and vinyl, although these are supposedly limited editions. A full-scale M83 album is scheduled for the start of 2008.

So what exactly is Digital Shades? It’s an album of predominantly instrumental music of a distinctly ambient hue that exists somewhere between Brian Eno’s eighties work, Slowdive’s Pygmalion period and Craig Armstrong’s film soundtracks. There are ten tracks and a relatively brief running time of 35 minutes. This is far from a noodling stop-gap release, though. It does wear its influences on its sleeve, but there is some stunning music on the record. “Strong And Wasted” has huge synth chords redolent of Eno’s “Spider And I” whilst “Dancing Mountains” is a piano led piece that would sit easily on Music For Films. The two part “Sister” is the only vocal track, a simple but beautiful late-night electro-ballad.

Alongside Ulrich Schnauss, Anthony Gonzalez leads the electro-shoegaze (for want of a better term) field. This is passionate, cinematic music that isn’t afraid to tend towards the overblown at times. Digital Shades may be a reflective step back, but it’s an affecting work that stands up in comparison with previous M83 albums.

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