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.
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.
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