Over a decade on from the release of his breakthrough sixth album ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ and its global megahit ‘Midnight City’, M83’s Anthony Gonzalez appears to still be living in that particular song’s shadow. “It was almost too much for me, you know?” he told NME about its overwhelming success earlier this year. “Maybe I didn’t deserve it, and maybe I’m just a small indie artist that wants to make small indie albums.”
Gonzalez, who started out as an esoteric Paris-based electronic producer, was propelled by the success of that 2011 record into a mainstream he was never quite prepared for. The subsequent 12 years have been somewhat of a course correction: he finally released the messy and indistinct follow-up ‘Junk’ in 2016, while his ninth studio album ‘Fantasy’ arrives as another attempt for the producer to reclaim his narrative. “Everybody wants to make more money, be more successful, have more followers,” Gonzalez told NME of his headspace while creating ‘Fantasy’. “The more I see that in the world, the less I want to be successful.”
While he may have made a deliberate turn away from commercialism, the songs on this latest M83 album remain sugary, dreamlike and entirely welcoming. Inspired by the ‘80s shoegaze sounds he grew up on and the immersive worlds of film soundtracks and video game music, ‘Fantasy’ is a huge, fizzing world of sound that’s designed to feel as awe-inspiring as possible.
From the new wave of ‘Amnesia’ to power ballad ‘Laura’, while also taking in the ambient wash of ‘Sunny Boy Part 2’, the off-the-wall weirdness of seven-minute closer ‘Dismemberment Bureau’ and ‘Radar, Far, Gone’’s delicate acoustic plucking, Gonzalez has made the most far-reaching album of his career: a record that’s entirely free of compromise, and all the more enjoyable for it.
Against the artist’s creative wishes, though, there’s a lead single here that steals the show. Awe-inspiring first track ‘Oceans Niagara’ is M83 at his dazzling best, creating layer upon layer of enormous shoegaze noise. “I just want to talk about forgotten worlds, dreams and magic potions, and try to keep my teenage years alive,” he told NME. A song as gleaming as this is powerful enough to have any dream you wish projected onto it.
Though the album gets a little messier and more unfocused from this point, ‘Oceans Niagara’ points to a beautifully bright future for the M83 project. Despite Gonzalez’s attempts to pull away from success, his status as a cult hero looks secure. His penchant for an earworm — intentional or not — remains undeniable.
Release date: March 17
Record label: Other Suns