Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun

My ticket for last night’s M83 show was printed on December 21, 2004. My goodness I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. I was attending this one more out of curiosity than fandom – I have the first M83 record and like it alright, but it hasn’t managed to really enrapture me. In fact, it seems to cause blackouts – I know what the first three songs sound like, and the last one or two, but that middle section? It could be 30 minutes of goats bleating for all I can remember, though I suppose that’s a testament to the album’s effectiveness as aural wallpaper. But livestock notwithstanding, I’d heard some good things about the live show and I really did want to be convinced.

I’ve mentioned before how unimpressed I was with Ulrich Schnauss at SxSW – what I’ve heard of his recorded output is quite nice but live, it seemed rather pointless. But I was totally willing to give him another shot, and it’s and good thing, too. You see, I’ve figured out the secret to enjoying Ulrich Schnauss live: Close your eyes. If you have them open, you’re fixated on this guy at his laptop, having a beer and banging away on a keyboard and wondering just what the hell it is you’re looking at. Close them, and the sonic experience creates outworldish images in your head of windswept plains, impossibly high mountaintops, churning oceans… Open them again and you’re wondering what is up with this guy’s hair. I spent most of the set with them closed, obvs. Hey, it’s not his fault – laptop music is hard to make (visually) interesting in a live context. It was funny – he finished his set and walked offstage to great applause, and came back out a minute later. The audience thought he was going to do an encore, but he actually just wanted to shut down his laptop.

My favourite track off M83’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts is the live recording of “Gone”, found on the bonus disc that came with some pressings. The full band arrangement gives it a much-needed kick and gives the inherently synthetic nature of the composition an organic dimension that pushes it from like to love. So the fact that M83 tour as a four-piece rock band gave me high hopes for the show. High hopes, but I honestly didn’t expect anything on the scale of what went down at Lee’s last night. I think that performance may now be the benchmark by which I judge all other concerts – if a show doesn’t have the visceral impact of a thousand kidney punches or a 70-minute IMAX best-of Bruckheimer video compilation, I’m just not interested. No, I’m not serious, but M83 did put on a show of ridiculous drama, intensity and just all-out over-the-topness. Surprisingly guitar-heavy and featuring an absurdly precise drummer – in fact, the entire band was dead-on and the mix was amazingly clear – this was a performance worthy of the “next My Bloody Valentine” tag that they (or he, M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez) often gets saddled with. Based on the albums, I would argue the point. Based on the show, not so much.

Let me try and articulate just how epic the show was. Imagine the final battle scene from Lord Of The Rings, except all the combatants are wielding lightsabres, there are volcanoes erupting all around them, and oh yeah – it’s in space. And oh yeah, it’s all happening in space (The rings of Saturn, to be precise) and the really dramatic bits are all in slow motion. Natch. Well that’s how it looks in MY head. Okay, that’s a little much, but seriously – the sound was so cinematic and massive, it’s hard not to get caught up in trying to describe it. If any act deserved to be named after a galaxy, it’s M83. I may have been unconvinced about them (him?) before last night, but I’m not anymore. In fact, I’m afraid the studio albums (I still need to pick up Before The Dawn Heals Us) will be a disappointment by comparison. This is one band that deserves a properly-recorded live document. Whoo.

Not the best batch of photos I’ve ever taken, the lighting was pretty tough to work with, but there’s some decent shots in there even if the don’t quite capture the grandeur of it all. And I’m sorry if this review is a little silly, I wrote it fairly late last night. You should see the first draft. There were midget Valkyries with laser beams shooting from their eyes in there.

Sleater-Kinney tour their new album The Woods (out May 24) through Toronto on June 18 at the Phoenix. Dead Meadow support.

If you weren’t at Sunday’s Shins show or that wasn’t enough for you, head over to You Ain’t No Picasso. He’s got the entirety of the band’s recent Austin City Limits performance available to download.

Wilco are playing four nights in May at the Vic in Chicago for a live DVD to be released, um, later. Sam Jones, director of the I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary, will be in charge of putting it all together.

Nobody cares that you’re a DJ – it’s funny ’cause it’s true. Of course, no one cares that I’m a hack musician either, so I guess we’re even. From Miss Modernage.

I wonder if it’s a conscious decision on the part of DC to have similar “govermnet versus heroes” storylines running in both their regular DCU comic titles and the animated Justice League Unlimited series. They’re finally back with new episodes (check out bit torrent, yo) and the latest one has Project Cadmus sending in the Suicide Squad to infiltrate JL headquarters. Granted, no one executes any Justice Leaguers like in Countdown (that can’t possibly qualify as a spoiler anymore), but it’s still fairly grim, thematically, and has some surprisingly knock-down, vicious hand-to-hand fight scenes (Atom Smasher! Shining Knight! Gotta love the obscure cameos). This second season of JLU is shaping up real nice.

Yet anothor Questionable Content follow-up – I direct you to Indietits, another project from the creator of QC. It’s not what you think… Unless you think it’s comic strips of small birds making jokes about indie bands/culture, then it’s exactly what you think.

np – Mum / Finally We Are No One

By : Frank Yang at 9:18 am
Category: Uncategorized
Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
RSS Feed for this post15 Responses.
  1. Paul says:

    The best part about that DJ thing is all the angry, reactionary comments from people who are likely DJs themselves. Bad, lousy DJs.

  2. punky says:

    You may love "Before the Dawn Heals Us" — it’s sooo fantastic and I’ve listened to it hundreds of times!

    Here’s the setlist as I remember it. Anyone know what the final song of the encore was? I think it might be "Noise" but I couldn’t pinpoint it. Boo.

    in the cold i’m standing



    fields, shorelines, hunters

    run into flowers


    car chase terror


    don’t save us from the flames

    teen angst

    a guitar and a heart




  3. angry robot says:

    Thanks to the crazy lines this year, i only caught a couple songs from the Ulrich Schanuss SXSW set, but I actually thought they way he was banging on the keyboard was kinda cool to watch. beats clicking a mouse, at any rate.

  4. Frank says:

    I only stuck aroudn for a couple songs of Schnaussy, and I only remember him doing the pointy-clicky thing. Maybe he was just getting started and was just running a loop while he got set up. SxSW breeds ADD, though, so I was outta there lickety split since I knew I’d see him again in a month anyway.

    I have a hard enough time remembering titles for songs with lyrics, forget about instrumentals.

  5. punky says:

    >>posted at 09:18 AM on Apr 20, 2005 by Frank

    OMG, did I call that last night, or what?? :P

  6. Frank says:

    yes, but I’ll have you know this post was ready at 9:04, but I WAITED just to give you the satisfaction.

  7. punky says:

    Wow, thanks! You just made my day :P

  8. Ryan says:

    yeah,M83’s Before the dawn heals us is prob my fav album of the year….i wanna listen to it on repeat for months…so atmospheric and mood-provoking. Unfortunelty, even though I had tickets to see them in DC last friday, I wasn’t able to see him since my stupid friends had to get engaged and have some stupid dinner and stuff…so i had to give my tickets to someone else…good thing i will see him at coachella…

  9. 123 says:

    Yeah.. Pink Floyd.

  10. t. says:

    saw m83 in nyc last fall and was actually unimpressed because it seemed to me that most of the sound coming out of the speakers was from prerecorded tracks on a computer. i absolutely love their albums, but it felt and sounded like watching a video shoot with the album being played very loud. hence i passed on them on the recent tour.

  11. mao says:

    Hey Frank,

    You mentioned bit torrent for comic books…i’ve been wondering for a while how comic books are being shared.

    Can you enlighten me?

  12. diddy says:

    Frank, good meeting you last night at Lee’s.(I was the Guy standing behind you, intoduced myself between sets.)

    Your Blog: Another fine installment.

    The show: I left half way through the M83 set; not into the M83 rock star poses, a bit cheesy and far enough from the first album i lost interest.

    Good call on Ulrich…of course the sonic depth can not be matched with the two albums I thought… enjoyed the set, even though I thought it was one song too long! (In front of the stage, not he best place to hang out for sound either)

    See you at Arcade Fire.


  13. Frank says:

    yeah, I think you absolutely needed to check your sense of irony at the door and buy into M83’s intense earnestness to really enjoy it.

    Mao – google "ZCult" and "DCP".

  14. Jonah says:

    Saw M83 and Schnaussy in Boston a couple of weeks back, and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a LONG time. Ulrich was decent enough (def. agree w/listening eyes-shut), but M83 was downright amazing.