Well, I could have chosen an easier band for my first review than Air, who, quite frankly, are difficult to analyse or compare. Indeed they seem to occupy their own ethereal plane in the modern musical landscape. Of course most will remember them for the Moon Safari and Virgin Suicides albums and the singles Kelly Watch The Stars and Sexy Boy.Subsequent albums 10,000hz Legend, Talkie Walkie and Pocket Symphony saw them branch out into new territory but, to be honest, often at the expense of continuity and structure. Their last album, Love2 was, in my opinion a real return to form featuring breathtaking arrangements and a previously, only hinted at, malevolent brooding energy.
So, what to make of VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE.(“A trip to the moon” in English). It begins with Astronomic Club, which features very “studio” sounding analogue drums and odd orchestra stabs and pitch shifted vocal chants which gives the impression that this is to be an odd listening experience. The track moves quickly into the signature Air ambiance though, which is reassuring.
The percussion theme continues on Seven Stars with some pummeling tom-tom phrases which strangely suit the track which soars, thanks to some great vocal work and an unsettling space launch countdown.
Again, drums dominate Parade, in fact, the band seem to have eschewed electronic drums altogether on this album which will draw no complaints from this reviewer. Parade and Moon Fever feature nice piano and synth work, reminding us we are listening to Air. There is also the quite surprising presence of electric guitars which do not seem at all out of place.
There is a slight reminiscence of Herbie Hancock on a few of the tracks, but the synth / drums combination works very effectively. Most of the music contained on this album, I would describe as slightly disquieting rather than beautiful, particularly Who Am I Now? which is downright spooky, but there are certainly moments when soaring, uplifting swirls of sound break through the unsettled mood.
Cosmic Trip is a welcome piece of upbeat instrumental pop, drawing us momentarily out of the uneasy fogginess.
The album is almost entirely instrumental, with the exception of Parade, Who am I Now? and some brief spoken word parts but it works very nicely and it doesn’t seem like anything’s missing.
After a couple of listens, I have to conclude that the pairing of dominant drums and syths is a real pleasure to listen to. The production on Air albums is always fantastic and this is no exception. The french duo certainly have been in some dark places of late, at least in a musical sense, but there are enough musical highs to prevent it from becoming dirge-like. It doesn’t quite reach the breathtaking levels of Love2 but nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot and it certainly shows that this band still have a lot to offer, and once again, I struggle to think of anything in contemporary music I can compare it to, besides their own work.