No Context: M83 at the Bowery Ballroom


This lovely rendering of last night’s show was done by Matt of the Syndicate Blog

Bowery Ballroom
Wednesday, June 4

Fussy French dude Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 set up onstage pretty much like you’d expect: first somebody comes and drags one of those acoustic glass cages out around the drum set and you just know when the drummer emerges he’s going to have to wear headphones in order to hear what’s what; then the keyboard tree goes up stage left, ostentatiously studded with all sorts of incredibly expensive looking boxes surrounded by other custom high-tech boxes hand-forged or whatever for the purposes of protecting the original probably-custom boxes inside; the guitar amp, when it arrives stage right, is the incongruous size of a large suitcase. Gonzalez gets his own entrance/applause, then come the rest of the band. All four members have microphones, but the vox on the first song trickle out via sample, a troubling sign.

Saturdays=Youth, the band’s dreamy, diffuse newest, is probably overripe for an ersatz-Pitchfork weigh-in on the quality of the production, the record’s place in the band’s grand narrative, its title-telegraphed themes, and so on (see a champ do it here) but I’ve yet to figure out how to talk about it with people in real life, beyond marveling at the sound and making approving noises about this or that, er, texture. Oh, right, plus running down the references—Magnetic Fields, Cocteau Twins, JAMC, the ‘80s, to which I’d add Jesu, and since nobody’s talking about it, “Lunar Weight” from the new VSS Nervous Circuits reissue (a white-belted forbearer to “We Own the Sky”).

At Bowery though, the opening, yup, synth-figure of “We Own the Sky” is too gigantic for the clouds/sunsets/grassy fields/constellation Hydra paint-drying metaphors the band usually inspires—not when everybody in the venue’s just jumping up and down. Plus—and this one’s for like five people, if that—you then notice that little tick-tick-tick figure high up in the percussion the band turns around in the second verse comes straight from Diplomatic Immunity II’s “Aayoo-iight,” remember?

Pretty sure this is how people listen to M83: they just pick out whatever stratum of sound that sound that sneaks up and trip off into free-associational space. (Status Aint Hood thinks about Blade Runner a whole lot while listening to M83, is what I just found out; stay tuned for his upcoming Pink Floyd track-for-track Wizard-of-Ozzing of Saturdays=Youth, unless somebody dies.) Live, however, the presence of arguably smokin’-hot keyboardist (she had her back to me the whole time, so who knows) and new-agey vocalist Morgan Kibby almost certainly bends most of these fantasias towards the same fantasia, for the men on the floor anyway. “I love you keyboard girl!” someone shouted between songs, which if you think about it, is a way better song title than “Highway of Endless Dreams.”