M83: Junk (Mute) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Apr 08, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It’s courageous to eschew an artistic style that brought professional notoriety and the stamp of being a trendsetter. This was the deliberate choice of Anthony Gonzalez on Junk, M83‘s first studio album since the widely acclaimed, electro-pop monument Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The commercial success of that album afforded Gonzalez the luxury of time to explore passion projects and contemplate a direction that felt personally fulfilling, if not opportunistic. With an assortment of tracks that may confound his followers, Gonzalez has returned from hiatus, applying his proclivity for sonic grandeur to his own iterations of the synthesized kitsch so pervasive throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Not simply a calculated departure for the sake of eluding formula, Junk is a thematic odyssey for Gonzalez, a nostalgic revisiting of a more innocent stage of personal interaction with pop cultural trends. During a time when a tidal shift occurred toward the electronic simulation and amplification of musical instruments, new sub-genres of smooth jazz, soft rock, space disco, and New Wave inundated the programming of easy listening radio, and also supplied the gaudy harmonic soundtracks to low-brow, low budget entertainment in film and television. An overzealousness about the newly accessible ultra clear sound realms made possible by nascent technologies gave premature birth to an entire era of music that nowadays is derided for its hyper sentimental tackiness, yet also viewed with endearment and amusement for its unabashed flamboyance.

This is the conceptual territory of Junk, a title referring to the disposability of music made more with surface rather than substance in mind. With retro-expressionistic assistance from the likes of Steve Vai and Beck along with vocals by Mai Lan and Susanne Sundfør that fit the contextual vibe, the album fully embraces the aesthetics of ‘70s and ‘80s era pop excess. The follow-through in exploring all its manifestations is what makes listening to Junk so utterly enjoyable. Through examples of sappy balladry, daytime TV and B-movie theme music, and bubblegum pop disco recreations, Gonzalez indulges in an oft-disavowed musical zeitgeist, imbuing it with the substance it always seemed to be missing.

With Junk, Anthony Gonzalez challenges the expectations of the devotees of past M83 projects, guiding them to embellished fabrications of the follies of pop’s past. After some period of acclimation, they might find the surfaces and textures of satin, glitter, and pink bubbles to be quite accommodating. (www.ilovem83.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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