White Sea - Prague

white sea
Circumstances (including a lack of good music) have resulted in a month-long silence over here, but allow me to return tonight covered in all of my former glory. And blood.

Membership of M83 is always a weird thing to figure out, especially as most of the coverage seems to go to Anthony Gonzalez, but as both a tour and studio contributor to M83′s work since Saturdays = Youth, it’s fair to consider Morgan Kibby a member of the band. Here, as White Sea, she branches out on her own with a light, laidback effort that’s not a million miles away from some of her work with M83. An easy thing to say given the enormous spectrum of styles they’ve worked within, but whatever. Deal with it.

Those familiar elements come via the reasonably loose structure of the song, with pulsating industrial-esque hooks broken up by verses that jump in where and how they can. Morgan’s drifty, high-pitched vocals combine well with the soft synths and samples in the verse for an atmosphere that’s gentle, whilst their delicateness is contrasted superbly in the hook by an industrial, sharp-edged production, built on crunching percussion, jagged synths and even a dash of distorted guitar work. It’s a strong listen from start to end, and sign that M83′s individual parts may be just as good as their collective presence.

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M83-Claudia Lewis (Video)

Time has only improved the Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming LP, probably to the point that I’d consider it one of my favourite albums of the last 5 years, and as it approaches its 2nd birthday, they revisit the LP with new visuals.

If ever a band took the inherent cinematic quality of their music and pretty much did whatever the hell they want visually, knowing it would work anyway, it’s these guys. Their previous releases have sat somewhere between mysterious, brilliant and bizarre, and this doesn’t change that in the slightest, though leans more toward the bizarre than the brilliant if we’re being honest. It’s pretty much a leftfield take on the schoolboy/girl crush scenario, with the girl in question having some unusual supernatural qualities, particularly an E.T.-esque finger, which then escalates into her essentially proving to be some kind of alien being. Simple on the outside, but it seems the suggestion is that rather than her being a literal alien, it’s more an implication of the impact she has on him, and his view on her unbelievable…ness. Or, she’s an alien.

Either way, when it’s soundtracked by a typically-grandiose M83 affair, it can be as weird or corny as you like: it ends up being gripping either way. If you were left behind whilst the rest of humanity were evolving and you don’t have this album, get it now.

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M83-Oblivion OST (Full Album Stream)

We’ve had two releases from the official soundtrack for the upcoming Tom Cruise film Oblivion, and the M83-helmed project is now available to stream in its entireity.

The aforementioned releases affirmed that M83 have no problems adjusting their work to the level of grandeur required here. What interesting from a very brief listen of this album though is that they’ve really pushed through into a few new styles: alongside the traditional movie score string sections and M83-esque bubbly synths, there are flashes of a darker, near-cyberpunk vibe, ensuring this OST has pretty much all bases covered as far as a big budget Hollywood film goes.

Frankly, it’s made me a little more interested in seeing that film next weekend, and if you enjoy this stream, be sure to pick up the OST on 8th April.

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M83-Oblivion ft. Susanne Sundfør

The second release from the M83-helmed soundtrack for Tom Cruise’s upcoming Oblivion film, and unlike the cinematic, orchestral first, this title track is much more classic M83.

Within seconds, the bright production style they’re famed for explodes into life, combining soaring synths with energetic electronic melodies, whilst the percussion work drives the track excellently; the relative subservience of it versus the more energetic drum work in the hook helps properly segment and define those two sections, and enhance the hook as the true anchor point of the track. It’s as skilful as you’d expect from M83, and that’s complimented well by rousing vocals from Susanne, whose vocals progress from relatively soft, melancholic work to grand, empassioned work, keeping pace with that ever-changing production and adding tons of scale and grandeur to proceedings. It’s good to hear an M83 production laced with such accomplished vocal work, and this is a strong track that should fit nicely with the epic environments the film is said to be set within.

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If I was asked to choose a band to soundtrack my life (could happen), it would be M83 (or Beach House). Any fan of their music knows they’re able to create incredible soundscapes that effortlessly spark a glut of mental imagery, and their inclusion on the soundtrack for Tom Cruise’s upcoming Oblivion film is a great selection.

The film’s about post-apocalyptic people living in the sky, and the grandeur of this piece is perfectly suited to that. That context means the composition is closer to their earlier work than the guitar and upbeat synth-driven work of their most recent 2 albums, making for a welcome reminder of their ability in that gentler, more gradual style of production. Opening with dramatic synths, the tone slowly begins to soften whilst clearly progressing and building toward a high point, the first of those coming with the arrival of piercing samples around halfway through. A step back to the laidback section follows, before the huge finale, with those sharp melodies scaling up even further and being joined by steadying percussion, providing the track’s true peak and a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. Textbook film composition, and I hope they have even more work on the soundtrack.

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M83-Wait (Video)

I’m almost disappointed this video trilogy is over, as it probably means they’ll stop making clips for songs from the fantastic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming album. I’ve said it about pretty much every video they’ve released from the LP, but this again is one of my favourite songs from the album, though it’s significantly different to most of the offerings on there. Much calmer and significantly more contemplative, the track is a slow roller that avoids the common ‘explosive’ climax, instead captivating and hypnotising you with its rhythmic, chant-esque vocals, and progressively adds in subtle elements to the production for that strong finish.

The organic build means it doesn’t feel like a forced ending, and that’s also true of the trilogy-ending video content. Continuing with the theme of powerfully gifted children, this clip takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting that contrasts rather eerily with the youthful characters: the numerous dead bodies, prowling wolves, greyed filter and unsettling skylines combine for an otherworldy visual with an element of realism, and one which gives this a visceral impact. That’s met by a more futuristic style towards the final third, as we see another of the trilogy’s star children return in amidst lasers and reflective pyramids, and again contrast comes into play with those flashes of colour juxtaposing favourably with the more earthly scenes that surround them. Another stunning audiovisual from M83, and I sincerely hope more new material isn’t too far away.

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M83-Steve McQueen (Video)

Another of the legitimately superb tracks from M83′s most recent album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and the video comes courtesy of a competition with Genero TV for aspiring videomakers to helm this one.

One of the many reasons I give this track so much time is for its immediacy, with the opening utilising no lengthy intros like plenty of their other music, and instead kicking things off with a lively, energetic vocal sample. It’s built on excellently with further vocals, uplifting synths and pulsating percussion work for a thoroughly feelgood track with so much positivity that it’s quite difficult to get the video wrong.

Thankfully, the rookie directors have done a great job here, and stick to M83′s favoured theme of childhood innocence with a supernatural twist courtesy of a fresh-faced kid performing for himself in his garden, interspersed with bright and fun animated scenes of electronics that suggest he’s possibly more scientifically than supernaturally gifted. It’s a video full of colour on a nighttime backdrop, and the high level of activity makes for a great accompaniment to the audio. Grab the album now.

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M83-Reunion Video

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is one of my favourite albums of the last 12 months, and M83 come through with hugely-anticipated visuals for the next single from that album.

The first, the fantastically-feelgood Midnight City, featured a video that initially felt like it missed the vibe of the audio by opening with dark scenes, featuring a grim prison for supernaturally-gifted children, before turning things around with brighter images of freedom, talent and rebelliousness. This video is the direct sequel to that in both style and storyline, opening in an ominous manner (and even a possible child death!) before moving into heavy action scenes and a fight seemingly of good versus evil, ending grandly in a spiritual and celestial manner. It’s a duet of videos laden with messages of trapped youth, revolution and spiritualism, and hence they’re fantastically gripping watches that are about as engaging as any videos I’ve seen in recent years.

A true example of how to combine stylistic excellence with a captivating story, and on reflection its astounding that they’ve managed to pack so much detail and depth into just a few short minutes. I’ve no reservations saying that when placed in sequence with the Midnight City clip, this is one of the best videos you’ll see this year. Grab the album on iTunes now.

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Tuesday Indie Throwback-Bloc Party

Feast your eyes on this, the first of many weekly ‘back-lookings’ at the various Kings and Queens of the Indie genre.

This week, it’s Bloc Party. Cast your eyes left and enjoy the video to Banquet; single off their debut album Silent Alarm, or below to une-petit bio of the band themselves….

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