The sixth record by electro-pop act M83 is kinetic, jarring and ethereal — a double album set in the dreams of a brother and sister, exuberant because it’s not limited to confines of consciousness, but felled slightly by its own scope. M83 leader Anthony Gonzalez seems to have cherry-picked from his own id, carefully compiling the best elements of his past albums: the knotty experimentalism of their 2000 self-titled debut (in which the song titles, memorably, revealed a short story), the beautifully downtrodden fuzz of sophomore album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and the buoyant new wave of 2008′s Saturdays=Youth.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is gorgeous because of its careful balance; each vocal keen and keyboard percolation fits into the larger thrum of grandiose synth swells and lightly-plucked guitar — they’re interlocked, intuitive moments that move the melodies forward unpredictably. Zola Jesus sets the tone in “Intro,” fervently howling over a beautiful, wildly-shifting orchestral-pop landscape; she ushers in the entire album and also, more specifically, the brother’s narrative. His fantasies are set inside whimsical, loosely cohesive tracks: a child’s earnest narrative about a magical frog unspools over a binary, Brian Eno-like backdrop. “This Bright Flash” sets frantic rock drumrolls amid sweeping keys and ghostly harmonies, and the languid outro “Soon, My Friend” is layered with beatific, inch-thick harmonies and is shot through with a simmering tension that suggests daylight is a burden.
The limitations of Gonzalez’s fantastic conceit crop up in the second half — the sister’s story begins ponderously with the dark, expansive “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea.” Like the first disc, the sister’s half is packed with arrestingly lovely moments; a few too many, with little variation between structures and vocal/electro stylizations to convincingly suggest a new character. The new wave pulse and soaring falsetto of “OK Pal” could just as easily have come from the brother’s mind. One of the sister’s most understated and affecting moments, the staccato twilight expanse of “Fountains,” feels like the tonal sequel to the brother’s “Where the Boats Go.” Family bonds are powerful, no doubt, but the crossovers suggest that these gorgeous songs work best independently, adding up to a lovely journey, even if it doesn’t quite live up its intimidating premise.