Digital Shades Vol. 1



by xezene USER (3 Reviews)
June 9th, 2010 | 6 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: To the patient listener, M83 will no doubt reward with this short but warm ambient journey. By including the signature M83 sound of broad horizons and natural landscapes, the album takes on a very personal feel & entrancing sound to be remembered.


Hazy, distant colors.

Romantic atmospheres.

Loves once had, that you can never get back.

Stargazing, laying in peaceful fields on warm summer nights, just alone.

These must be the sorts of things Anthony Gonzalez, of M83, dreams about.

In his overly lush solo 4th album, Digital Shades Vol. 1, M83's grand, peaceful visions take over fully throughout the tumultuous emotional soundscapes present in this record. As a single piece, the album flows remarkably well and can hold its own against earlier M83 achievements such as 2003's Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts & 2005's Before the Dawn Heals Us. Reports from Gonzalez himself abound that he almost released this under his own name, as he felt it was too different and personal to be an M83 album. However, the sound of this album makes it clear that his final decision was correct - it certainly fits and belongs in the M83 canon.

More or less, the album seems to flow almost like a giant Slowdive song, ebbing and flowing, peaking and dipping here or there with emotion, but retaining the same overall atmosphere. It soon becomes clear to the listener just how much Gonzalez admires such composers as Slowdive, Brian Eno, and, to a lesser extent on this record, My Bloody Valentine as well.

The ambient album begins with a very simplistic piece, Waves, Waves, Waves, which is two-chord sequences, drawn out flowingly in repeated forms for about 2 minutes, with the sounds of oceans and beaches lapping against the listener's ears. It is a good indicator of where the album will go from here, and on its own is a very, very relaxing and peaceful piece. Coloring the Void comes next, and it is truly one of the album highlights. In usual M83 fashion, synths, pianos, and voices start quietly but build to a truly epic-feeling finish. This track seems to broaden its horizons incredibly as it goes.

M83 returns us to the ambiance of Sister (Part 1), in a very emotion way. This piece speaks nothing but volumes of longing, simple, eternal longing. Melancholy in a very dramatic, albeit short, form here. Sister (Part 1)'s emotionally-dripping atmosphere gives way to the absolutely incredible MBV build-up, Strong and Wasted. The synths perfectly compliment the droning guitars as it reaches a huge, fading climax at the end, to the sounds of birds whistling in the background. Again, Gonzalez's smart inclusion of natural sounds proves to be a huge advantage to this track.

Quietly, the album moves on into the reverb-filled My Own Strange Path. Somehow, yet again, Gonzalez' repetitious nature ends up making this track beautiful. Synths flow in the background of the track as the reverb grows, and the ambiance begins to bounce back and forth from right ear, to left ear, to right, and so on until the track fades out. The piano piece that is Dancing Mountains begins, which is a rather interesting piece because Gonzalez pulls a gutsy move on this one by dropping the track to near-silence for almost 2 minutes, right in the center of the track. Although this seems almost jarring at first, it ends up making the song rather memorable for it.

“Stay away from me...” M83 intones fragilely in Sister (Part 2), Gonzalez' whispery vocals embedding itself among the familiar tune of Sister (Part 1). The inclusion of a few verses on this track transforms it into a whole another being here; this is one of the album's true gems and speaks volumes of almost peaceful pain. By the Kiss, written for Gonzalez' brother's short film of the same name, brings on the synths in full-force. It is a delicate piece that turns into an almost thrashing piece at the end. Miniscule peaks and falls of emotion make this song what it is, and in the ears of the listener it becomes a very emotionally charged track. The atmosphere is absolutely incredible. Again, a hats' off to Gonzalez, a song like By the Kiss can't help but pull you in, almost effortlessly, to its world of beauty and atmosphere.

Space Fertilizer is just what the title sounds like it would be – it seems almost exclusively written for stargazing. It's an enjoyable, simple piece, and bridges the gap nicely between By the Kiss and the grand finale that is The Highest Journey.

The album's last track, in classic M83 fashion, is a rather long track, clocking in at about 8 minutes, so it builds emotionally for most of its running time. The grandeur of this finale soon makes itself clear – the aptly-titled “The Highest Journey” is right. A calm piano sweeps on through the piece as synths slowly make their presence, bubbling under the surface of the track until a single whispery voice begins to be heard in the distance, at which point both the rising vocals and atmospheric synths swell up tremendously. More and more synths are added, the piece glowing and rising in its dramatic passion, until the track transforms into an emotional and fully melancholy finale. Then, just as you begin to wish the album's atmosphere would never leave, it fades out and away, off to seemingly enchant some other listener.

I finished the album for perhaps the 30th time, looked over at the case, and I knew – M83 had done it again.

To the patient listener, M83 will no doubt reward you with this singular album. Here's to looking forward to Digital Shades Vol. 2.

Highly recommended

user ratings (157)

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 10th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

first one, done!

June 10th 2010


love this album

June 10th 2010


this man can do no wrong

June 10th 2010


nice first, album is pretty good as well.

March 29th 2012


Don't know why I've never listened to this, but the review convinced me to.

March 7th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

I'm giving this it's first real chance. I've always listened to it will prejudice.. I kind of considered it a bit of a senior slump. Your review has convinced me to open my mind.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy