M83 Explores Dark Truths Amongst Immaculate Soundscapes On ‘Fantasy’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Setting expectations for an M83 album is setting yourself up for failure. The storied, multi-faceted band is led by French composer and songwriter Anthony Gonzalez who has overseen the band through its many sonic styles and lineup changes. Gonzalez has traversed a multitude of soundscapes and dove headfirst into soundtrack work for a few films, which might explain the cinematic nature of their ninth studio album Fantasy which is out on March 17. Over the span of 13 tracks, M83 takes you through lush production that feels equal parts cosmic and interpersonal. They achieve a world-building style of production while still allowing these massive chord progressions to sound intimate and subtle in their approach. The band sounds freer than ever before, and each idea for the album is executed to its fullest extent which gives way to immaculate soundscapes and hushed melodies that give Fantasy its dreamy nature. 

What makes Fantasy such an interesting listen is the way M83 structured the album. It is able to mix deep introspection with dreamscapes of synths that hold on to you tight throughout the astral projection caused by the LP. They have a foot in their usual cloud-like production style and a foot in this more stripped-down vulnerability that harkens back to the early days of the band when they used the vacant feeling provided by droning synths to express themselves. They toy with this juxtaposition throughout the tracklist, allowing for deep meditative breaths between the onslaughts of bright chord progressions. Structuring an album in this style could’ve easily gone south for M83, attempting to fit as many emotions and styles into one album could’ve made for a widely inconsistent tracklist. Instead, the band is able to transition into each new mood with ease, making the slow-burning harmonies of “Us and The Rest” feel right at home with the danceable grooves of “Earth To See”. 

Don’t let the larger-than-life production fool you, M83 is exploring some dark truths even in the album’s most sun-drenched moments. The lyrics of Fantasy tend to dwell in melancholy, exploring ideas of loneliness while providing an interesting contrast to the production of the album. Lyrics like “I’m in love with the darkness, it’s just a sound” from the single “Amnesia” brings with them a dark cloud to block some of the shine of the song’s danceable tempos and falsettos. This builds a wall between the lyrics and the music, allowing each element of these thick textures to shine. The aforementioned nature of the production creates a wall of sound that might have the listener missing small elements that truly make these songs unique, the dark lyrics allow for these alien-like chords to seem more down to earth. A song like “Radar, Far, Gone” is obviously built around sadness but it’s the hidden moments of vulnerability that make this album all the more special. M83 is able to squeeze in these moments of honesty in a way that feels therapeutic on both ends, making the sonic equivalent of the age-old phenomenon of feeling alone in a room full of people. 

M83 could not have come up with a more fitting name for their 9th studio album. Fantasy plays exactly like one, you’re immediately thrown into a whirlwind of glittery sonics and dense textures that fill your soul with a certain feeling of joy that can’t be found anywhere else. There is a droning sorrow that makes this album feel intimate and personal despite the grandiose nature of its songs. The band crafted their most personal and revealing album to date by allowing themselves to play with minimalism in a way that creates an atmosphere of honesty. Fantasy has M83 at their most fearless, allowing the album to switch tones on a whim lets their songwriting reach depths that might sound out of place if the band stuck with their usual sonics. Surrender yourself to M83 and allow them to be your guide on this mystic journey through bouncy melodies and heartbreaking explorations into oneself.  

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