M83’s raw instrumentation enhances its immersive ambience

Although less intimate live, M83’s live performance emanates unparalleled atmospheric bliss.

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Kyle Kohner, Writer

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Candid and raw, blaring emphatically with imminent energy and heaviness rarely exposed by electronic and synthesized instrumentation, M83 conceives cosmic dream pop and vast soundscapes from a surprisingly modest setup.

A sensory assault

M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez arms himself with a Roland KR-375 synthesizer. With his lethal instrument, Gonzalez concocts a sensory assault upon listeners’ ears. On Friday, Oct. 28 at the Greek Theatre, Gonzalez and his synthpop-shoegaze project M83 continued the sensory-overload in an ultra-atmospheric fashion.

Other than fellow ambient post-rock giants Sigur Ros, M83 provides the most intimate listening experience available. While their recent album “Junk” abandons the band’s usual intimacy while resorting to cheesy ‘80s sitcom-inspired yet bombastic dance numbers, M83’s live show ultimately stands as grandiose and satisfying.

M83’s performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles only increased my affinity for their recent studio release of “Junk.” The tongue-in-cheek lyricism mixed with clichéd ‘80s guitar riffs cemented the album’s positive insincerity as purposeful. Despite how synth-heavy “Junk” seemed, the decision to highlight its rock-oriented aspects with raw guitar riffs and solos alongside a live drummer proved positive.

Generation-defining anthems

M83’s performance Friday night augments the band’s identity as a force on the concert circuit, flaunting a live approach to dream pop that has morphed into a collection of anthems that has helped culturally define a generation. Although heard continuously on the radio and through the soundtracks of films exuding teen angst, “Midnight City” heard live harnessed the magic it once had when initially experienced in 2011. Witnessing Joe Berry’s recognizable and blaring sax solo raised goosebumps as it emanated more energy live than the studio version.

After Berry finished his solo, the audience roared in approval as he bowed for the audience, appearing like a child who finished the monologue to his school play in front of his parents.

When the band conjured up their older tracks from “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” Gonzalez let loose his soothing vocals, perfectly embodied by the heart-wrenching “Wait.” Given Gonzalez’s anthemic vocals, “Wait” performed live proves its worth as a track that could define an era of music.

Another highlight during the night came via keyboardist Kaela Sinclair in the song “Oblivion.” Although the studio version of the single hits hard due to the impeccable and tear-jerking vocals of singer Susanne Sundfør, Sinclair blew expectations out of the water and hit notes just as piercingly as Sundfør, especially during the pounding, echo-deluged climax that makes “Oblivion” worth the listen.

Euphoric mesmerization

Live, M83 proved themselves as some of the most vibrant showmen. Despite Gonzalez’s seemingly reclusive personality evident in his snarky responses to interviewers, Gonzalez and the four-piece ensemble with the occasional French guest singer Mai Lan proved to have infectiously fun on-stage chemistry.

Despite the numerous dance numbers displayed live throughout the night, M83 closed out their set and hit the human need for the melancholy and isolated beauty. Their presentation of the more beatific yet pensive singles such as “Echoes of Mine” and “Lower your Eyelids to Die with Sun” allowed audiences to breathe and sink inward into a feeling of certain calmness, while bursting forth in mesmerization of the euphoric and seismic instrumental climaxes. M83’s performance at the Greek Theatre proved unparalleled to any other I have ever seen in concert.

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