Out of the night that covers me

M83 expresses an ambivalent view of salvation

Keri Carlson

M83’s album takes place during the time when the night sky shows its first sign of relenting. When the black of the sky slowly dulls into a gray. Sun rays have yet to appear, but at any moment, the horizon could rupture with a blinding gold.

“Before the Dawn Heals Us” proposes the sun has healing powers and the end of the night will rescue lost souls.

Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, creates a cast of characters and story lines in each song. After M83’s last album, “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts,” Nicolas Fromageau left the French duo, leaving Gonzalez with a solo project. “Before the Dawn Heals Us” adds more vocals than the last record and uses more shoegazer rock elements in the vein of My Bloody Valentine.

The lyrics on the album, written by Gonzalez’s brother, sound like dialogue from a melodramatic, 1950s young-adult novel. It’s over the top and cheesy at times but no more than songs by the Cure. Gonzalez seems aware of this (he named a track “Teen Angst”), which helps the album be more kitschy than trashy – like a prime-time TV drama instead of a daytime soap opera.

The characters and songs are all connected by a sense of anticipation. They’re waiting to be saved.

Gonzalez creates this feeling by using ambient spaces interrupted by gothic choirs.

But “Before the Dawn Heals Us” is not set on a mountain or next to a lake, waiting for a pastoral sunrise. Gonzalez crafts his large, orchestrated compositions on laptops, drum machines and synthesizers. The electronics place the album in a futuristic urban landscape. And in a city of lights that never sleeps, it’s questionable whether the dawn still has any effect.

“Before the Dawn Heals Us” anticipates a savior that might not come.