M83/Susanne Sundfør - Somerset House, London 16/07/12
Photos by Tom Griffiths
You may or may not know that M83 are named after the 'Messier 83' galaxy, a distinctive spiral galaxy (and not, sadly, after a motorway). And this idea of space, the stars and the universe comes in everything Anthony Gonzalez has done since. He is a man adept at sonically exploring the sky above, of creating giant space age soundscapes. For this show M83 lit up Somerset House. Through the grey skies beamed lasers and highways of endless dreams. It felt like being in a sci-fi movie.
Or perhaps it's better to say that it feels like watching a sci-fi film at the cinema. A lot of the crowd mindlessly chat through the entire songs, not caring who hears them.
It's the same for support Susanne Sundfør though the Norwegian singer songwriter still manages to captivate those paying attention, her jagged synths and angelic voice coalescing together perfectly. She finishes with single 'White Foxes', which sounds magical.
Then it's time for the main event. From the outset it's clear that the gig is going for the jugular. M83 have always been about the grandiose and the theatrical but tonight it seems like has lost some of its emotional resonance. Drums are pounded and lights flash but everything about the new sound in the live setting is windswept and clouded by dry ice. The lightshow may be dazzling but you get the feeling it's to make up for a lack of stage presence.
It's the Hurry Up, We're Dreaming songs that get the biggest reaction. 'Intro' and 'Reunion' are brought out early. These tracks are huge, oceans of synths flowing over the crowd.
This bombastic approach creates a mid-set lull where tracks seem to merge together. 'This Bright Flash' and 'Steve McQueen' work well but there seems to be no connection between stage and crowd. The front rows are at times a mass of jumping bodies, hands aloft, but those further back seem lost. In fact it seems to be 'the one from the tele' that brings everyone back. There's no denying 'Midnight City' is a fantastic track and the whole crowd bounce to the best song never to be on the Drive soundtrack.
Yet it's the moments of calm that are the most affecting. 'Wait' foregoes the light show to sound truly moving. And when they return for an encore things really start to take off. 'Skin of the Night' and 'Couleurs' are genuine hairs on the back of the neck moments.
So, while this is an enjoyable show it often comes across as too indulgent, a gig where the nuances of many of the songs are lost and the songs never reach the transcendental heights that they grasping for. Sadly this is only terrestrial; you hope the 'extra' is still to come.
Purchase and listen
Label: Sonic Cathedral Release date: 26/04/10 Link: Myspace In 2003 M83 had two creative principals and a critically acclaimed LP. After touring in support of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, Nicolas Fromageau left Anthony Gonzalez as M83's sole creative principal. Gonzalez has since achieved unprecedented success with a pair of acclaimed LPs, including his collection of 80's inspired pop songs, 2008's Saturdays = Youth. Little has been heard from Fromageau until now, and the seven s... [read more]
Explorations of opposites are key to the concept of the album and this is most noticeable in the androgynous quality of the David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors’ voices which merge into an asexual apparition. What is also enchanting is the EP’s connection with nature, it is clear to see that The Deer Tracks were truly inspired by the wilderness of their natural desolation. [read more]