Rhythm & Views


French rock 'n' roll is so uniformly awful that Auteurs/Black Box Recorder mastermind Luke Haines once wrote a sneering anthem about it. French post-rock, however, has a significant leader in M83, which consists only of Anthony Gonzalez, who performed and recorded his new apocalyptic work somewhere in the French countryside. A curious locale, given that the largely instrumental Before the Dawn Heals Us sounds like it was manufactured on the abandoned sets of George Romero's Dead trilogy.

Indeed, Gonzalez gathers the synthesizer-fueled chase scenes of '80s genre films--the minimalist compositions of horror director John Carpenter, the sci-fi romanticism of Vangelis--then runs them through a mutilating gauntlet of chamber-rock orchestration. There are passages, like "Don't Save Us From the Flames," that scare the hell out of me, even as I'm left marveling at the stark beauty of a woman's voice soaring through a dogfight of Moog and guitar above downtown neo-Tokyo, all of it braking to a sudden stop to showcase the elliptical violence of the lyrics. There are spectral meditations, too, like "Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun" that cause Before the Dawn Heals Us to resemble a collection of Herman's Hermits' B-sides.

If this seems a tad cold and insensitive, you're right. M83 dredges up all that was ugly about the '80s and lends it an epic, futuristic, amoral sheen.

Indeed, somebody should get on the horn with Romero quick, before he releases his long-awaited, soon-to-be-released Land of the Dead. He needs a few tracks from Before the Dawn Heals Us to make his picture complete.

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