M83’s Extended ‘Dreaming’

Duplicity, duality, double; each of these words carries a certain sense of consternation. Whatever they describe threatens to be schizoid, schismatic, pulling itself in opposite directions, so when word got out that M83’s follow up to 2008’s acclaimed “Saturdays = Youth,” was a double album, many could only shake their heads in remorse. Perhaps this was going to be a bloated, overly ambitious album. Fortunately, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” released on Tuesday, Oct. 18, emblematizes everything a double album should be. It is rich, ambitious, transcendent, absurd, manic, urgent and dreamlike all at once.

This album shouldn’t exist. It’s too long, clocking in at 79 minutes and 5 seconds. Its song-writing is too imperfect, too wishful. “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” is planted very firmly in the clouds, and in an age where music increasingly seems saccharine, pre-packaged and utterly unoriginal, it’s beyond refreshing — it’s a miracle.

“The cover has a brother and a sister sitting in a bed,” said M83’s Anthony Gonzalez in an interview with The Observer. “One side is the spirit of the young boy, and the other side is the spirit of the young girl. It’s like how brothers and sisters are different people, but connected by blood and mind. Each track has a sibling on the other disc.”

The sister disc comes first, starting off with a sprawling track simply titled “Intro,” which features Zola Jesus. Synthesizers blend with the vocals, and as a result the whole track melts into itself, creating a quasi ’80s musical dream world of epic proportions.

“We didn’t need a story, we didn’t need a real world,” whispers Zola Jesus over a sea of pulsing synthesizers. “We just had to keep walking. And we became the stories, we became the places. We were the lights, the deserts, the faraway worlds. We were you before you even existed.”

The sister disc continues with 10 more tracks. Standouts include the album single “Midnight City,” which has great potential as a speaker-busting party track; “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” which combines playful looping synthesizers with a young girl reciting a story about turning into a frog; and “Claudia Lewis,” which sounds like Tears For Fears in all of their glory. “Mad World,” anyone? Case closed.

The brother disc kicks off with “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea,” mirroring the swirling synthesizers and dreamlike vocals on “Intro.” A sense of deja vu sets in as the disc progresses.

“I’m slowly drifting to you,” Gonzalez sings over synthesized strings and keyboards. “The stars and the planets are calling to me. A billion years away from you. I’m on my way, I’m on … I’m on … ”

Above all else, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” is an album born of change. Gonzalez began to think about a new album about 18 months ago after deciding to expatriate from his native Southern France to Los Angeles. The unmistakable and cliched idea of California as a place of new beginnings and new opportunities looms as largely in this album as palm trees over Los Angeles.

Gonzales revealed that he took several trips to Joshua Tree to record, and these desert trips sparked the idea for a double album. Gonzalez cites The Beatles’ “White Album,” Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma” and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” as influences. In the long and varied history of double albums, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” ranks among the best. First and foremost, it carries the same ambition and variety as the granddaddy of them all, the “White Album.” Although it does not contain the audible tension of a band breaking itself apart, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” attempts to explore a similar range of sonic textures, stopping short of including an experimental track like “Revolution 9.”

The release of “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” as a double album is a statement. The longer tracks are joined together by shorter transitions and interludes, many of which the album could do without such as, “Train To Pluton,” and “When Will You Come Home?” on the first disk, and “Fountains,” on the second disc. In addition, a few of the longer tracks are less than stellar. “Splendor,” on the second disc, is a prime example. The track goes on for far too long, clocking in at 5:08. The reverb effect on the vocals seems out of place and doesn’t blend with the synthesizers and piano instrumentation.

“Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” however, succeeds in creating a unique artistic space in spite of all its imperfections. The album is at once M83’s most backward-looking and its most forward-thinking. Its nostalgic evocation of the fake, overproduced synthesized sounds of ’80s pop both romanticizes and deconstructs the pathos of an entire era. For those on this campus who were alive before 1993, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” gazes longingly into the past while moving ever so slightly toward the future with an urgency reflected most succinctly in its title.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5