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Premiers Symptomes, 7/10 (comp)
Moon Safari , 7/10
Virgin Suicides, 6/10
10.000 Hz Legend , 6/10
City Reading (2003), 4/10
Talkie Walkie (2004) , 6.5/10
Pocket Symphony (2007), 5/10
Darkel: Darkel (2006), 6/10
Love 2 (2009), 5/10
Le Voyage dans la Lune (2012), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Air is a duo of French musicians, Nicolas Godin, with a degree in architecture, and Jean Benoit Dunckel, with a degree in classical music. They started playing alternative rock in the 1980s in Paris, but reached maturity composing music that harks back to the heyday of Europop and Eurodisco, albeit transfigured by retro-futuristic arrangements. Their musical itinerary was marked by a batch of delightful singles: Modulor Mix (Mo' Wax, 1995), Casanova 70/ Les Professionels (MO' Wax, 1996), J'ai Dormi Sous l'Eau, Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi (summer 1997), that have been collected on an EP, later expanded to a mini-album, titled Premiers Symptomes (Source, 1997 - Virgin, 1999).
You can hear the soothing melody behind the plastic mix of digital beats and electronic reverbs of Modulor Mix, but only when the horns moan it louder it becomes the center of the song, and only for a few songs. The electronic languor of Casanova 70 is matched by the soft doodling of a jazz piano. The brass section whistles a shamelessly melodic theme. The electric piano gives it a syncopated spin. The tone remains casual and detached throughout the piece. Air's retro` is "indifferent", unemotional, synthetic to the bone.
The nocturnal lounge music of Les Professionels, wrapped in tides of gentle melodies, and the dreamy music box of J'ai Dormi Sous l'Eau, whose repetitive patterns border on minimalism and raga, push the melody to the forefront.
Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi continues the slide towards a more conventional song.
Air's music belongs to the easy listening side of the spectrum: jazzy and laid-back, sensual and melodic. What propels it to avantgarde status is the manic attention to detail. Orchestration often includes sitar, Wurlitzer organ, Moog synthesizer, and tuba. Since all sounds are played and no sampling is employed, the sound is fresh and human.

Moon Safari (Source, 1998), featuring vocalist Beth Hirsch, is a vastly more professional and ambitious proposition than the early funny singles. The retro-sound of analog keyboards is prominent, as in the Moog-revival school that is taking hold in the US. Korg keyboards, Moog synthesizers, Fender Rhodes electric piano, and vocoders bestow a zany campiness to the kitscy pop of Air's electronic dance music. The tracks exude Pink Floyd's psychedelic majesty, jazz's subdued ambience, random quotations from the history of soul, funk and disco music, and more than a passing mention of Burt Bacharach's and Ennio Morricone's scores.
The suave and uplifting jazz-rock theme of La Femme d'Argent, played and counterpointed on a plethora of timbres by the electronic keyboards, whirls like one of Terry Riley's minimalistic "dervishes" before mutating into a driving movement for piano and orchestra.
Their knack for post-modern revisions of commercial music is in full display. Sexy Boy is culled from France's easy listening of the 1960s (steady Riviera rhythm, engaging organ refrain, sensual female singer) but augmented with bizarre sounds and a robotic tone. A similar treatment awaits the bubblegum motiv of Kelly Watch The Stars (refrain filtered in a Laurie Anderson fashion, hypnotic pace and piano fugue), the catchy novelty Remember (a mostly heavenly instrumental theme, except for galactic moaning of the female singer and whispers of the male singer), the joyful parody of orchestral movie soundtracks Ce Matin La. And the real songs, led by All I Need, offer a trip-hop version of a soul-jazz diva. Air breathes new life in a dead body.

The film soundtrack Virgin Suicides (Source, 2000) is not up to the masterpiece. A dozen Pink Floyd-ish instrumental tracks and one vocal piece, Playground Love, merely scratch the surface of their postmodern technique of layering kitschy and retro sounds. Helped by Moog and Mellotron, Air forge an evocative and nostalgic score in which the "story" matters more than the merit of each song.

10.000 Hz Legend (Virgin, 2001), Air's second album (not counting anthologies and soundtracks), is a more sophisticated and colder dose of catchy and soft 1960s-infected arias. Kraftwerk-ian robotic fever derails Electronic Performers, whose melancholy romanticism stands as the emotional manifesto of the album. An alien spirit propels Don't Be Light, that alternates between space-rock jam and android ballet and several other styles in just six minutes. The seven-minute Radian is no less multi-faceted, lining up a ghostly wordless lament, a jazz horn melody, an orchestral swell and a psychedelic coda. These two gently flowing collages are the Alas, Air seem more interested in crafting mellow, dreamy ballads (Radio #1, Lucky & Unhappy, Sex Born Poison with the Buffalo Daughter), but they can rarely sustain any interest beyond the first few sound effects. Take away the ornaments, and Wonder Milky Bitch is simply third-rate Leonard Cohen. Only Syd Barrett-ian The Vagabond (with Beck) has lasting charm, and People In The City manages to build up a sense of melodrama.
Despite a pastoral flute or a psychedelic guitar or a Macintosh computer voice occasionally surfing the soundscape, the revisionists arrangements have lost some of their magic.

Everybody Hertz (Astralwerks, 2002) is the customary, tedious album of remixes.

City Reading (Astralwerks, 2003) is the musical soundtrack to a reading by Italian writer Allessandro Baricco.

Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin returned to a relatively warmer ambience on Talkie Walkie (Virgin, 2004). At the same time, they refined their arsenal of studio tricks to inject a sense of alienation and even desperation. If their specialy remains the classy but pointless easy-listening of Run (reminiscent of 10CC's I'm Not In Love) and Alone In Kyoto (reminiscent of Kevin Ayers' exotic-decadent ditties), or the elegant bubblegum music of Cherry Blossom Girl (a` la Pizzicato Five) or the joyful instrumental novelty Alpha Beta Gaga, i.e. the numbers that highlight their inventive fusion of Brian Wilson and Brian Eno, a deeper sense of existential spleen radiates from the slightly neurotic Alpha Beta Gaga and the oddly funereal Venus, songs that cast a dark shadow on their paradise lounge, or from the postmodernist revisions of the space boogie Surfin' on a Rocket and the space country Biological. Occasionally, Air's art evokes the dark-humorous vision of a paradise set inside a videogame, a vision that is worth a philosophical essay.

Late Night Tales (Thrive, 2006) is a late-night mix compiled by Air.

While still competent and occasionally enchanting, Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks, 2007) fundamentally sounds like a senile versione of Moon Safari. A couple of songs are pretty enough to stand on their own (Napalm Love, Once Upon a Time, Mer du Japon) but the whole sounds like yet another soundtrack whose main purpose is to create ambience for the sake of ambience: the songs (and the four instrumentals) are generally slow and occasionally brain-dead.

Jean-Benoit Dunckel debuted solo with Darkel (2006), a divertissment of deviant pop muzak.

Air aim for subtlety on the lighter and simpler Love 2 (Astralwerks, 2009). Despite a few wake-up calls, such as Sing Sang Sung and Heaven's Light, mostly the album ends up sounding like pop-soul ballads drenched in lounge languor (Love, Eat My Beat, Tropical Disease).

Le Voyage dans la Lune (2012) was a mediocre soundtrack to Georges Melies' 1912 film.

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