If you listen hard enough, M83’s new album sparkles a little darker than their last, a sound forged from a glaze of tragedy and a dusting of sadism. Before The Dawn Heals Us, the band’s follow-up to the 2003 underground hit Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, should send a shudder of excitement through an ever-growing audience hungry for electronica with a heart. Once a two-man collaboration, M83 has been trimmed down to just Anthony Gonzalez, a burgeoning artist with an ear for the perfect emotive beat and an eye for innovation.
The striking cover art casts the band’s sound in a Blade Runner-esque cityscape, fitting for M83’s jarring new urban sound. Straying from the Elysian Fields and bird-fluttered skies that comprised the melodies of their first album, Gonzalez lets tracks like “In the Cold I’m Standing” and “Car Chase Terror!” set a disturbingly murky tone for his thematic reincarnation. Lyrics like “A piece of brain in my hair / The wheels are melting” from the album’s lead single, “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” are whispered against a howling guitar hook with brazen unsubtlety.
He does leave some breathing room, though. The precious M83 of Dead Cities survives in “Farewell/Goodbye,” a soothing scoop of inspiration á la Sigur Rós. And though even the quiet songs of Before the Dawn can be a stressful listen, the album is mesmerizingly and seamlessly stitched together. Paralleling the band’s own de- and reconstruction, Before The Dawn will cut open your heart with a Casio keyboard, sew it back together and still leave you looking forward to the sunrise.