M83, OnDeadWaves at O2 ABC, Glasgow, 27/6/16

On occasion a live event purely of an electro variation represents something of a risk, perhaps even more so in a space the size of the ABC.

While there is little debate to how much quality recorded material is attributed to the genre, you can’t help but feel a certain level of nervousness prior to such a gig.

Why? Well, because put simply you never really know if you’re going to see much of a, uh, show.

Fiddling with some pedals, which appear obscured by several cable layers, Anthony Gonzalez quips “Glasgow, are you still here”.

Many electro synth-driven, dream-steeped bands spend their entire careers futilely grappling with how best to translate the sonic expanse of their recorded output into a live setting, as well as cables.

If anything, French musical mastermind Anthony Gonzalez’s M83, may currently face quite the opposite problem.

And that’s not to say anything ill of the project’s rather illustrious now long list of material, rather it just so happens that Gonzalez and his cast of collaborators go from sounding like they’re powered by a premium grade diesel on record to launched by something akin to jet fuel face to face.

OnDeadWaves comprise of two artists who have already enjoyed a measure of success as solo acts; James Chapman of Maps and Polly Scattergood. Their collaboration could be described as a polished affair, both experienced exponents of deep electronica, this experience shines through has they motor through a 25 minute set.

The set is largely well received, a healthy mixed bag concoction of droning jumped up synths with a tinge or two of sparse sad balladry.

The melancholic dirge of ‘Jupiter’ is a stand out as the room is drenched by Chapman and his guitar reverb as Scattergood wispily wails of space rock imagery, all elegantly ethereal.

However it is dreamy set closer ‘Winter’s Child’ that evokes the moody Badalamenti soundtracks of yesteryear, Chapman’s backing vocals compliment the hushed tones served by Scattergood.

While the support doesn’t elicit the same brand of intermittent sprawling movement from the crowd as the main event it feels more likely such reticence was more a product of unfamiliarity than actual dislike.

Despite contrasts to M83‘s early and later day work, the difference is mainly Gonzalez testing the waters of edging extra instrumentation baubles within the margins of his music.

Gonzalez’s stage presence has always had an edge of the sinister; lopsidedly stalking the stage with a blend of crippling nervousness and hyper-confidence. but these days he doesn’t carry the burden of each and every note on his own, if nothing else tonight confirms that M83 have become more of a conventional band type act.

M83 quite literally move everyone in attendance, the band members themselves included.

Even early on in proceedings Gonzalez steps away from his soundboard and jinks around manically during ‘Do It, Try It’, so much so that it is something of a freak accident in itself that he doesn’t collapse.

He isn’t alone in his zealous behaviorism with guitarist Jordan Lawlor bounding around with punk rock-type rage, and drummer Loic Maurin who just about trashed every cymbal in sight over the course of a 90-minute set, not that Gonzalez attempts to outdo his current comrades.

On the contrary, two of the more memorable songs, including ‘Laser Gun’, come as Gonzalez cedes responsibility to guest vocalist Mai Lin, whose voice sounds particularly angelic backed by Kaela Sinclair.

Following a mid set lull several members of the audience wrap their arms around one another as M83 morph into the languid ballad ‘Wait’.

At regular checkpoints throughout the set, Gonzalez, Lawlor and co. fist pump, head ban, and even drop to the floor mid-guitar solo.

Such movements are acceptable for the most part, exciting, even at least initially, but as the thrusts and jumps become more and more of a feature and overplayed, it begins to feel less sincere and closer to some dull, perverse performance art.

Aside from singles, the ABC attendees appear to be at least approaching apathetic; during quieter or less immediate musical moments, chitter chatter and the all-important study of phones resume.

It could be said the main body of the set relies upon the same formula: start, build, pause, climax, repeat.

Some begin with just ambient wisps generally comprising one central melodic framing with few variations, making it louder, quickly taking it away, and then building it back up again; such a cycle becomes easily predictable over the course of the gig.

The vast majority of pieces performed evoke a similar dreamy dance whereby synths and guitars stockpile atop one another, forming a single, maximalist swoop.

Vocals act as tone devices as opposed to a provision for delivering further meaning, resulting in pretty much the same vision on various numbers.

‘Midnight City’ is another saw-toothed synth trip of discogazed outsized emotion, as probably the acts most recognised piece the crowd sparks to life and again finally mirrors some of the colourful moves adopted by those on stage.

However, from an entirely selfish viewpoint the band save the best for last as ‘Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun’ is given an airing.

The set closer defines all that was once spectacular about Gonzalez and co. in a final shoegaze firework perfectly placed somewhere across from chaos and calm, which recalls the long defunct Barfly venue more than a decade ago.

With this final reminder of brilliance Gonzalez showcases that once upon a time it was OK to just play to the music, and not the crowd.

Words: Andy Quigley

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