Opening with a horizon-wide smear of guitar fuzz and synthesizer sigh, M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts plays like church music from a grand chapel frozen over and left to waste. Organs and strings swell with all the drama an album would seem fit to contain, but the cumulative effect evokes elegy more than emotion. M83's music soars to near-impossible heights, but its trajectory leads directly toward a sort of atmospheric grave, where ashes brush against rain.
It's also curiously easy to saddle with comparisons to Air and Boards Of Canada. Like those two obvious benchmarks, M83, a French band that hit big in import bins last year, makes music for movies flickering in the mind's eye. Songs like "Unrecorded" and "Run Into Flowers" throb through swaths of keyboard and moody drum bash—stirring epics smooshed into four minutes of post-rock swirl. Occasional vocal snatches hint at My Bloody Valentine, but Dead Cities' mostly instrumental tracks work like movements more than songs. After "America" crests in a rousing fit of ambient supersaturation, "On A White Lake, Near A Green Mountain" builds toward, well, yet another rousing fit of ambient supersaturation.
As monumental as Dead Cities sounds in parts, its uniformity proves oppressively stirring after just a few tracks. All the epic heights serve the same end, and all the quiet-loud dynamics follow the same pattern. It's hard not to be swept up by the melodramatic abundance of an album-closer like "Beauties Can Die," but it's just as hard to distinguish the sensation from numbness.