Song of the Day: M83

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Artist: M83 Track: "Coloring the Void" Album: Digital Shades Vol. 1


The primary struggle of ambient musicians is to produce sonic landscapes in which a listener can get lost peacefully. In space, in sky, in a swirling portrait of color. Briano Eno pondered whether one could mimic the faceless calm of an airport.

Since his Ambient 1/Music For Airports, artists from Enya to Air have concerned themselves with breaking down the structure of popular music and the frameworks that corral listeners into a collective, unified experience of music.

This genre often includes electronic instruments, mixing anomalies that place vocals and other lead instruments behind a wall of pretty sounds and a lack of percussion (the most important feature in music that's meant to be left open to interpretation).

Of course, this is why The Rolling Stones work in a stadium setting, but ambient bands never could.

Ambient music is to be taken and enjoyed by individuals in unique ways. That's its most redeeming quality, and the best producers of said genre succeed only when listeners are inspired to paint their own mental images when the headphones are on. (It's always better on headphones.)

The drawback to much ambient music - which strives to embody the opposite of noise music's abrasive aggression - is that you can at times become too lost. In other words, you fall asleep without the force, lyrics and percussion of the music that permeates daily life.

But even in ambient minimalism, French duo M83 is relentlessly powerful.

At times, the outfit relies too heavily on tired forms, effects and approaches. What they lack in finesse are attributes that can be heard clearly on this sample from "Coloring the Void," a standout track on Digital Shades Vol. 1, released earlie this month. Its power, climaxes and the ability to maintain a single chord without exhausting its impact.