Review Summary: Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts is modern and melodic, calming and fascinating, expansive and minimal; it is a superb album.
The term electronic music has acquired a negative connotation recently; the same term that is used to describe Aphex Twin is also the term that we use to describe the later works by The Editors. So, with this being said, it would not surprise me if more than a few ignored M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts
entirely because of the genre M83 is a part of. However, those who ignore the genre altogether and do listen to Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts
will find themselves listening to an epic, intriguing sophomore effort from this (at the time) French duet.
Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts
is a force to be reckoned with. Featuring an assortment of noises, distortion and layers of sound are important elements to M83's brand of aural pleasure, and make the band comparable to shoegaze. Tracks like “America” show off the shoegaze similarities as there are several layers of noisy instrumentals that are stacked upon one another. These layers act as a cohesive unit, but are distinguishable from each other. The track uses this “wall-of-sound” technique to its advantage and piques the listener's interest with its unexpected shifts in tempo and its apposite inclusion of samples. “Gone” follows a similar path, but is an improvement over everything the former track had accomplished. That includes the transformation factor that is so important to M83's sound.
“Run Into Flowers” starts out on the wrong foot with its cheesy introduction, but eventually, the song transforms into an epic combination of trance and shoegaze. “Cyborg” transforms in a similar way, but distortion is more evident in the latter track than in the former. On tracks like “Run Into Flowers”, the vocals seem to act as another instrument, and hold just as much importance in terms of melody as the keyboards. The quaint vocal styles allow the album to hold a stronger sense of originality while retaining all of its interesting bits.
These interesting bits are almost always present, from the “wall-of-sound” technique used in “America” to the minimalist nature the album showcases. Several of the tracks here use melodies that revolve around a very small quantity of notes. The fact that such a small quantity of them are used to make the exciting nature of this album is surreal in a way. It makes one wonder how so very few notes can be used to craft consistent songs on this electronic opus.
From the large swells of electronic instruments to the simple noises that litter this album, Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts
is a crowning achievement. It is as intriguing as it is calming. Tracks like “Unrecorded” are not forced, and neither are the tracks like “Run Into Flowers” because M83's sound on this release is modern and melodic, calming and fascinating, expansive and minimal; it is a superb album.