On its second album and U.S. debut, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (Mute), the French instrumental duo M83 uses 80s keyboard technology to create electronic effects and melodic bombast that recall the crossover work of early synthesizer pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. (A computer is used only once, to cut up some vocal samples on "0078h.") But Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau's underlying aesthetic takes them beyond the gauzy washes of sound and blandly pulsing rhythms of those obvious forebears. As a teenager Gonzalez played in a guitar band inspired by Sonic Youth, and while the thick layers of woozy synths here hardly resemble the feedback and harmonic tricks conjured by Messrs. Moore and Ranaldo, the noise-rock influence is audible in the hard attack of the electronic drums and the music's overall density and volume--the keyboards are run through distortion pedals to make them more abrasive and guitarlike. As much as anything M83 sounds like shoegazer progenitors My Bloody Valentine reborn as a synth group, setting epic melodies to churn in a billowing sea of texture. The sound is undeniably compelling, but in the end the songs start to run together. For their first U.S. tour, though, M83 has expanded into a quartet with a flesh-and-blood rhythm section--they may end up a real rock band yet. Berlin's Ulrich Schnauss, who explores somewhat similar territory on his second full-length, A Strangely Isolated Place (Domino), opens. $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Thursday, September 16, 7:30 and 10:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/JP Talaga.