M83 – “Midnight City” (mp3)
“Very, very, very epic”, is how Anthony Gonzalez – A.K.A. M83 – described Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in an interview with Pitchfork, and as soon as the first track of his new double album begins, you can understand why. Gone is the understatement and nostalgia that were present in previous album Saturday = Youth, Gonzalez opting instead for a collection of enormous club anthems.
Admittedly, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming can be described as ‘epic’: compared to Gonzalez’s previous records, it is much longer and much louder. However, it’s unclear if wanting to create something that is ‘epic’ in this sense is beneficial or damaging. Something important is lacking in Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and this tiny word appears to be the reason why. Certainly, the album’s length and volume are epic, but if all that is required for something to be termed ‘epic’ is for it to be completely unbridled, it seems the term ceases to be praise. It feels as though something integral has been sacrificed in order for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming to become as large as it has. It’s unfocused. Saturdays = Youth was successful because people could relate to it on an emotional level, and it had a unifying theme: everyone wants to return to, or keep hold of, youth. It had a story.
So much has been pumped into Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, it swells up to the point you can’t keep hold of it. By the end of the first side, it has shifted from epic to exhausting: there is little variation, and the pace is unrelenting. Individually, some of the tracks are uncomplicated, well-structured club hits, but when crowded together in this way, the record feels less like an album and more like a hasty collection of singles. The small number of shorter, quieter songs inevitably becomes engulfed; the delicate ‘Train to Pluton’, ‘Where the Boats Go’ and ‘Another Wave From You’ get muscled out and lost, and you forget they were present in the first place.
The record’s confused personality is split between wanting to hurry, and wanting to dream, but it refuses to give adequate attention to either one. Unsure of what it is, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming eventually collapses in the no man’s land between the restrained, melancholy shoegaze of I Break Horses’ Hearts, and the fluid, energetic dance of Justice’s Cross – it never quite manages to reach either camp.
However, there are a few moments on this colossal double album when Gonzalez is clearly trying to innovate rather than merely escalate. Scattered throughout the record are a number of songs where the focus seems to change from the size of the sound, to the instrumentation and dynamics. The endearing strangeness of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ shines out in particular, jaunty handclaps accompanying a story of a frog told by a little girl. Similarly, the peculiar blend of genres on ‘Year One, One UFO’, in which Gonzalez somehow strikes a balance elegantly between highlife and raga, is refreshing. So too, is the choice of using the much neglected 12-string in the sweeping ‘Soon, My Friend’. Best of all is ‘Splendour’, which feels heavier with meaning than the other tracks on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The club you’ve been trapped in slowly begins to melt, a fierce warmth emanating from piano chords and vocal harmonies. For the first time on the record, in this sublime moment of subtlety, the music becomes emotionally epic through use of melody, rather than rhythm or volume.
Ultimately, you cannot escape the feeling that perhaps wanting to create a record that is “very, very, very epic” got in the way of it becoming coherent. “We didn’t need a story, we didn’t need a real world”, whispers Zola Jesus in the very first lines of the album, but it’s precisely a story that’s lacking from Hurry Up, I’m Dreaming – a story to unite it, a story to give it meaning, a story to guide us, a story for us to hold on to.
Ed. note: Original review updated after replacing corrupt “Outro” track.
Stream Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in its entirety here.