You don’t cure a packrat by moving him into a bigger house, and Anthony Gonzalez of M83 shouldn’t be given three years to layer (and layer) his hooky songs with synthesizers, drum fills, and vocal flourishes galore. By Gonzalez’s own admission, the synth-pop maestro doesn’t know when to stop tinkering, and on the double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the arrangements build and burst and build again without ever filling the space left by M83’s 2008 breakout album Saturdays=Youth.
Morgan Kibby, who lent her vocals to some of Saturdays’ best tracks, returns here in diminished form, though it’s difficult for any of the guests—including Zola Jesus’ Nika Roza and Medicine’s Brad Laner—to make much of a dent in a sound this massive. That’s partly down to Gonzalez; after playing coy on his first two albums, he’s now singing front-and-center. His yelps, shouts, and whispers slip over and around every glassine guitar and room-filling organ drone. In spite of the shift in the band’s center of gravity, Dreaming plays like an anthology of tracks that might have been: There’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts’ post-apocalyptic exhaustion, some of the fluorescing anthems of Before The Dawn Heals Us, and ambient connective tissue that recalls Digital Shades Vol. 1.
After the excellent one-two punch of “Midnight City” and “Reunion” hints at an album dense with catchy “Kim & Jessie” clones, Dreaming settles into an unspectacular but pleasant run that includes a silly twee experiment (“Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”) and a Boards Of Canada homage (“Fountains”). Mostly, though, Gonzalez goes for big, synth-driven show-stoppers that inspire reverence like secular hymns. But for an album of such impressive scale and nanoscopic attention to detail, Dreams leaves a surprisingly light impression.