The art of film scores and soundtracks balances two roles—complementing and enhancing the plot, atmosphere, and aesthetic of the film, as well as standing alone as an individual album or piece of music. Not all soundtracks can or should straddle this line successfully, though, and that seems to be the case for M83’s original score for You and the Night, the first film by M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez’s brother, Yann Gonzalez.
The score for You and the Night (trailer here) abandons the synthed-out sound of “Kim & Jessie” and the slick dance-pop of “Midnight City” for more orchestral, haunting instrumental compositions. Most of the tracks are brief and ephemeral and less than two minutes long. The score begins with three such little tracks, “L’inconnu,” “Nous” and “Vision.” “L’inconnu,” which means “the unknown” in French, features eerie, atmospheric and staticky sounds that mimic wind and waves, sinking and swelling. In stark contrast, “Nous” (“we” in French) features much more melodic synths. And “Vision” adds in sad, poignant strings, high, wordless vocals and wavering, cinematic violins. “À la lumière des diamants” (“In the light of diamonds”) continues in the same vein, complemented by operatic vocals from Susanne Sundfør and M83’s Morgan Kibby.
Anthony Gonzalez aptly wrote on M83’s Soundcloud page that “This score is really for lovers and ghosts,” but the ghostly vibe comes off strongest here, in the score’s quiet and somber strings and synths. The second half of the soundtrack is somewhat more substantial than the first, with tracks breaking the three-minute mark, like the spacey “Hologram,” with its endlessly repeating, echoing electronic melodies. And the score’s final track, “Un Nouveau Soleil” (“A New Sun”) stretches to six minutes, picking up the orchestral strings from “Vision” and pulling them into a big, epic crescendo with grandly sweeping strings, pulsing synths, reverberating percussion, and Sundfør’s and Kibby’s sweet soprano vocals.
Though the tracks on the You and the Night soundtrack seem like perfect accompaniments for a film, nuanced and subtle as they are, the album doesn’t quite make it on its own, separated from the visual story it was meant to enhance. In any case, the score shows that M83 have more up their sleeves than just another round of dark, electro indie-pop.