Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Mute Records

With his sixth release, dream pop-weaver Anthony “M83” Gonzalez captures the scope of his expansive double album in its four word title; Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming strives for the ethereal, and quickly. Named for a spiral galaxy, M83’s past projects have ebbed and flowed across sonic landscape throughout the past decade. Earlier releases drifted along in shoegaze and dark ambiance, while 2008’s Saturdays = Youth took a warmer turn, one that Gonzalez claimed as a tribute to the ’80s. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming continues the reincarnation of that decade of excess, ripping ear-splitting crescendos as if they were lines of nose candy. Apparently, doing climaxes makes Gonzalez want to do more climaxes. With tidal waves of synth dotted by sax, strings, acoustic guitar and even an instance of slap bass, M83 stuffs 72 voluminous minutes onto 23 tracks so full of dreamy club anthems that there’s barely room to breathe.

In an album that includes many over-the-top titles, Gonzalez chooses to label his first simply as “Intro,” an audacious kick-start featuring the eerily whispered guest vocals of Nika Roza Danilova (of Zola Jesus) juxtaposed with Gonzalez’s own blaring call to “Carry on/ Carry on.” At five-plus minutes, the intro is so grandiose, so celestially-minded, it makes the prospect of enduring nearly two dozen similar songs daunting, but Gonzalez wisely segues into one of his catchiest tracks, “Midnight City,” to add proper balance. Driving e-drums propel swaths of synth and falsetto whoops, and the song oscillates between ecstatic and subdued. The sax melody at the outro may be cheesy, but it only enhances the electric ’80s feel.

Gonzalez’s “oh-oh-ohing” vocals on “Reunion” border on grating, but this, too, becomes addictive on repeated listens. Momentum halts with “Where the Boats Go,” which is pure soundscape and the first example of the several 60-90 second interludes that pepper the album. These rest stops are necessary, if only to act as an escape hatch from the comet ride, but the abruptness of this one jars. The imaginatively strange “Raconte Moi Une Histoire” pairs a bouncy synth melody with the awestruck storytelling of a child (producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s five year-old daughter) who details the fabulist charms of a magical frog: “If you touch its skin, you can feel your body changing/ And your vision also/ Blue becomes red, and red becomes blue/ And your mommy suddenly becomes your daddy/ And everything looks like a giant cupcake.” These surreal sequences, much like the Zola Jesus intro vocals, allow for the fleeting moments when the album achieves the stuff of dreams, before we fall back into Gonzalez’s often indecipherable lilting.

The second disc incorporates more diverse sound, but after the first’s ecstatic onslaught, it may be too late. Yet another hyperbolic title, “My Tears Becoming a Sea” opens with cymbals crashing like waves against a shore and leading into the hugely anthemic “New Map,” which conjures to mind a sky full of falling stars. As you can see, glitter and sparkle abounds, but the second album is more measured, euphoric without wad-blowing, and without the fits and starts of the first. “Splendor” includes a haunting choral accompaniment leading into catchy strings, a welcome oasis from the cavalcade of synth. “Year One, One UFO,” along with the brief Kraftwerk-esque glimpse of “Klaus I Love You,” epitomizes what this album could have been had Gonzalez been willing to take it down a notch.

But Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming has no space for nuance or subtlety, all the emotions are overblown, and as a concept this works: what are dreams, after all, if not exaggerated emotional imagery? But what may work in theory doesn’t in practice as, also like a dream, the album is disjointed. Individually effective songs don’t coalesce into a whole, making even an homage to ’80s excess come off as excessive. M83 makes a valiant reach for the sun, but ─ while the celestial soar may be exhilarating ─ the flight ultimately ends in melted wings.

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