Digital Shades, Vol. 1 | Mute
By RICHARD BECK  |  December 26, 2007
2.0 2.0 Stars
Having carved out a comfortable niche as masters of breathless, elegiac, synth-based pop, the French duo M83 (Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau) do something unexpected on Digital Shades, Vol. 1, diving headlong into ambient music. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the disc is a collection of not-quite-fleshed-out sketches rather than detailed soundscapes ready for prime time. That may work for noise punk, but it doesn’t here. The album’s title could be read as an oblique reference to Aphex Twin’s ambient masterpiece Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II, which succeeded thanks to Richard D. James’s ability to modulate a stable foundation of sounds over spans of seven or eight minutes, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner. But Gonzalez and Fromageau create soundscapes that simply glide along for a few minutes and then abruptly end. The sounds they generate are pretty enough, but they never lead anywhere.
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