Review: M83’s ‘Fantasy’ is beautifully dreamy narrative

'Fantasy' is M83's latest album. Photo courtesy of Spotify

By Tyler White | Reporter

Sometimes an album isn’t just about the individual tracks. Rather than focusing on each track and its highlights, it’s sometimes better to look at the album as a whole, with all of the songs playing a particular role in creating the narrative. M83’s newest release, “Fantasy” follows this idea, with every song playing a crucial part in creating the atmospheric, musical story at hand.

Opening with the beautiful instrumental “Waters Deep,” M83 sets their sights on crafting a record full of ethereal beauty and dream-like ambience. With each successive song, the atmosphere builds with more and more emotional tension. Tracks like “Oceans Niagara” and “Amnesia” ebb and flow between subtle verses and explosive choruses that exude energy and power.

“Earth To Sea” and “Fantasy” harken back to the group’s earlier work, like the popular “Midnight City,” with more of a songwriting focus on infectious grooves and catchy ear worm choruses. These songs are characterized by simple drum chops and scaling lead synths that continue to amplify the ethereal and dreamy soundscape of the record.

However, the narrative isn’t entirely bubbly and high energy. “Radar, Far, Gone” and “Deceiver” showcase a somber side of the story, with their reliance on airy, smooth synths rather than grooves and beats. They add a greater depth and variety to the record, providing different sides of the story that continue to expand the dream-like state found throughout.

Following the fast-paced energy of tracks like “Sunny Boy,” “Fantasy” shifts to a darker, haunting version of this narrative. “Kool Nuit,” with its slow burning orchestral intro, features various effects in the progression of the track that give a sense of urgency to the track, swiftly changing from the animated ambiance of previous tracks to a borderline nightmare-ish atmosphere.

Yet, all of “Fantasy” comes to a close with the intensely composed “Dismemberment Bureau.” As the outstanding highlight of the record, this track embraces the dreamy songwriting and mixes it with subtle switches in instrumentation that gives it an unsettling feeling. The electronically distorted vocals mixed with the unexpected shifts in the melodies brings this album to a haunting close, concluding with a cacophony of loud and clashing synths and guitar leads that fade into silence.

Though not as mainstream as their previous albums “Junk” and “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” or as experimental as “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts,” “Fantasy” shows M83 diving deep into the realm of pure atmosphere. With this record, the group showcases their ability to craft a cohesive musical narrative that slowly builds a dreamy state through the chemistry of every track working together.