Air: Pocket Symphony
Air - Pocket Symphony - [EMI]


There's not a single soul who lived through the 90's and is not familiar with Air's music. Anyone who ever sat in a coffee shop can probably hum most of "Moon safari" even if he isn’t aware of it. Even MTV junkies will fondly remember the video clip for "Playground love" from "The virgin suicides" soundtrack. Folks, who love electronic music as a whole, probably know the rest of the soundtrack, and most chances are that they have a good recognition of their second album "10,000 Hz legend" as well.

In the late 90's, the duo Jean- Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin, aka Air, released their critically acclaimed debut album "Moon safari"; in which they crafted (with a magical touch some would say) beautiful landscapes made of sound and imagination, with layers of keyboards creating an atmosphere that later on created an entire genre. With that album they had became almost founding fathers of this easy lounge listening music, on the other hand, those were also the first bricks toward the music we can all so easily ignore in cafés.

"Pocket symphony" is Air 4th album. Unless of course you count "The virgin suicides" soundtrack, "City reading", and with the amount of work they put into Charlotte Gainsbourg's latest album, this can easily be their seventh album.

The album is what bands would proudly (gives me the urge be more selective about the definition of proud) call "back to the roots". There's a lot of "Moon safari" in here, mostly in the atmosphere they set - the same multi-keyboard pastoral landscape, quiet, soothing, one you can easily ignore in the aforementioned coffee shops but still admire in the privacy of your home. Problem is, that in oppose to the US president's last name, things have changed since the 90's. The musical genre Air have lead has grown, redefined and its boundaries have been overflowing with copycats and genuine artists. Making the new Air album a nice to listen, well produced album, but with no unique saying.

Two guest appearances can be noticed on the album, Ex-Pulp vocalist Jarvis Cocker, and Neil Hannon from "The divine comedy". Nicolas and Jean had met them while working on Gainsbourg's album, and the encounter generated two great tracks. Jarvis Cocker proves what he has proven before once again in the Leonard Cohen tribute, the fact that when he goes on with something, you can count on him to go full Monty; His track "One hell of a party" goes from hypnotizing to chilling in almost no time, delivering my favorite track on the album. Neil Hannon, whom I always admired for the way he presents his songs, rather then gives them away, takes hold of the beautiful "Somewhere between waking and sleeping".

The far-East influences are noticeable in some parts; Nicolas has learned to play the Koto and Shemisen (two traditional Asian instruments) throughout the last year. But the general sonic painting they paint is too similar to the one they drew back in the 90's, and as much as I'm dying for the 80's retro to be over (we all agree that was a bad decade for all, right?) maybe we're not ready yet to re-live the 90's.

Roy Povarchik

Share |
blog comments powered by Disqus