Album Of The Week: M83 – Fantasy

French synthpop cuts loose and hits hard in our pick of the week’s new releases

Ever wondered what a shoegaze jam session sounds like? Anthony Gonzalez takes his synthpop dreamscape project to new heights by breaking his own boundaries – throwing away the storytelling and letting the music float off wherever it wants to. 

The shadow of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming towers over Fantasy (as it has over everything M83 has put since 2011), but there’s a lot less to live up to when there aren’t any rules to follow. Telling NME that he wanted to just “make music in a room with musicians and jam around and see what happened”, Gonzalez releases Fantasy now as a “gift to himself”. As self-indulgent as it sounds, it’s not actually a bad idea. 

M83 - 'Oceans Niagara' (Official Music Video)

No longer constrained by trying to soundtrack imaginary 80s movies, M83 is free to make every track sound like its own Labyrinth. Less focused but more powerful, here the layers build and swell more organically – nods to Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ros, Dead Can Dance, New Order and Tangerine Dream weaving around each other on the same tracks, washing the whole album in tidal waves of sound. 

Almost too much to process in one listen, there’s a lot to take in here. Built from 37 different synths, 10 drum machines and an ambitiously stacked set of overlayered vocals, this is (as ever with M83) music for a good set of headphones while you stare at your bedroom ceiling. 

But it’s for dancing, too. Amid all the eye-misting ambients (‘Water Deep’, ‘Sunny Boy Part 2’, ‘Deceiver’, the bizarre seven-minute slow-shuffle of ‘Dismemberment Bureau’) there’s plenty of late-night neon floor-fillers that sound like you’re hearing them on the way down the stairs to a French club. 

M83 - 'Amnesia' (Official Audio)

Already the masters at making daytime feel like night at every festival they play, expect ‘Amnesia’ to be the new stand-out setpiece at any M83 this summer. Built as a weirdly sunny anthem about darkness that feels like War On Drugs fighting Arcade Fire in a Stranger Things arcade, maybe M83 should cut loose more often…

Released: 17 March 2023
Label: Mute
On Tour: Jun 2023