M83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, has frequently utilized different collaborators at each stage in the career span of M83 (whose astronomical moniker comes from the abbreviated name of “Messier 83” – a spiral galaxy fifteen million light years away in the Hydra constellation). The first two M83 album releases – the group’s self-titled 2001 debut and 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts – both featured Gonzalez’s childhood friend Nicolas Fromageau, now of Parisian “cold gaze” outfit Team Ghost (whom Gonzalez also hired to do an official remix of “Midnight City”). Keeping it all in the family, Gonzalez’s brother Yann contributed significantly to M83’s 2005 soaring prog-shoegaze-ambient magnum opus, Before the Dawn Heals Us. Singer-songwriter and actor Morgan Kibby, meanwhile, proved a vital creative foil as well as an ethereal, female Greek Chorus vocal counterpoint on M83’s breakthrough albums, 2008’s Saturdays=Youth and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (which also featured an astral cameo from Zola Jesus). And in the immediate years preceding JUNK, Gonzalez became in demand as a soundtrack composer for hire, clarifying the promise of M83’s already cinematic sweep in actual movie theaters with scores for 2013’s Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster Oblivion and his brother Yann’s 2014 directorial debut You and the Night. New original M83 tracks also received prominent placement in the soundtracks to the hit film series Divergent.
While Gonzalez played the majority of the instruments on JUNK along with contributions from Meldal-Johnsen, longtime M83 drummer Loïc Maurin, and pianist Jeff Babko, the album’s collaborations would prove crucial – and even more wonderfully unexpected – than anything we’ve heard from M83 before. Just as “Midnight City” featured perhaps the most epic reimagining of an ‘80s-style saxophone solos, the new song “Go!” – an exultant synth-pop charmer featuring vocals from another new M83 collaborator, edgy French chanteuse Mai Lan – features possibly the most orgasmic ‘80s-style guitar solo ever, from one who knows that terrain better than anyone: superstar virtuoso Steve Vai. Famed for his fleet six-string heroics for everyone from David Lee Roth to Frank Zappa, Vai entered the M83 ecosystem courtesy one of Gonzalez’s closest creative partners, Justin Meldal-Johnsen – the acclaimed producer/multi-instrumentalist who played on and co-produced Hurry Up… and JUNK with Gonzalez. Another of JUNK’s boldface guests, Beck, also came about via Meldal-Johnsen, who has worked with the genre-bending alt-rock legend since the late ‘90s. Beck appears on the smooth new wave-meets-electro-funk workout “Time Wind.”
A resident of Los Angeles for over half a decade and an avid consumer of American pop culture, Gonzalez attributes the new Euro atmosphere permeating JUNK to longing for his homeland.