Categorizing M83’s oeuvre is difficult. A drone/swarm aesthetic gets the shoegazer senses tingling, but not intensely enough. Despite an Enoesque approach to soundscaping, it fails ambient’s “Does it slip into the background?” test thanks to synth lines stacked like cordwood and percussion that leaves blast craters. And though there are dream-pop overtones, leader Anthony Gonzalez’s approach is just a bit too enthusiastic, too ebullient. All the same, he inches toward more concrete classification on Saturdays=Youth, leaning heavily on ’80s new-wave tropes. “Kim & Jessie”—sure to dumbfound longtime fans with its standard pop constructs (a 4/4 beat, a bridge!)—spins on its axis, aglow with glittering synths and guitars, a bubblegum style typical of a high-school-dance band in a Savage Steve Holland flick. “Skin of the Night” and “Up!” take the nostalgia exercise further, suggesting the Linn-and-Roland dalliances of Strawberry Switchblade or the Human League. But only the kickdrum/keyboard bounce of “Couleurs”—which isn’t New Order, but a Sarah Records act approximating New Order—exactly apes the classic synthpop Gonzalez otherwise brilliantly reconceptualizes. He mimics the effete qualities typical of the genre, but darkens them with French synth-wave gravitas. It’s cold-blooded, yet slickly intimate: Richard Pinhas being Gary Numanized. He nurtures nostalgia but isn’t enslaved by it, and Saturdays=Youth teems with equal parts ache and pomp as a result.
M83 play the Music Hall of Williamsburg June 3 and Bowery Ballroom June 4