Air's gently psychedelic brand of lounge music found commercial success worldwide between the late 1990's and mid-2000's and, though their time in the sun has now passed, at least two albums in their discography remain outstanding examples of ambient pop.

artist:
Air

country of origin:
France

style(s):
Ambient pop, retro lounge, synthpop, psychedelia

decades active:
90's-10's

essential releases:

  • Moon Safari (1998, Virgin/Source)
  • Talkie Walkie (2004, Virgin/Source)

Reviewed by Mike G

At its considerable best, the music of Air (French duo of Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) skillfully straddles the worlds of ambient music and mainstream sounds. Air's gently psychedelic brand of lounge music found commercial success worldwide between the late 1990's and mid-2000's and, though their time in the sun has now passed, at least two albums in their discography remain outstanding examples of ambient pop.

One of those is their full-length album debut Moon Safari (1998), which cemented the duo's legend almost immediately. The age-old Moog synthesiser makes its return to pop with a vengeance on this near-perfect collection of instrumentals and songs, an intriguing hybrid of Kraftwerk, psychedelic pop, film soundtracks and retro lounge. Those elements are all in perfect place on the instrumental "La Femme D'Argent", the astounding opening track with a funky bass guitar factor that goes right off the scale. It's one of the most euphoric soft rock jams imaginable; soaring keyboard solos, richly melodic basslines, luscious string samples and more. It's so blissed-out and dreamy you just want to grab your pillow, climb inside your speakers and nod off.

After this brilliant opening the high standard is pretty much maintained throughout the rest of the album. The sensual classic "All I Need" is exquisitely phrased by guest vocalist Beth Hirsch and is regularly voted in online polls as one of the great lovemaking songs of all time. Closing the album is "New Star In The Sky" and "Le Voyage De Penelope", two sci-fi lounge instrumentals of outstanding quality.

Talkie Walkie (2004) is Air's other standout release. It's a melodic and generally sweet record, although its darker moments like the slow dirge "Another Day" and the dislocated melody of "Run" add real depth to the overall experience. The duo's gift for blissful ambient pop sounds remains undiminished. So crystalline and beautiful is "Universal Traveler" that lines like "I know so many places in the world, I follow the sun in my silver plane" can raise goose bumps rather than make you cringe.

Dunckel handles Talkie Walkie's lead vocals - there's no guests this time - and again there's a handful of fine instrumentals. The lush "Mike Mills" features a spinning, repetitive keyboard and string melody not unlike the orchestral pieces of minimalist composer Philip Glass. The closing "Alone In Kyoto" is from the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's meditative film Lost In The Translation and evolves a sparse beauty through the simplest of ideas using piano, guitar and vocal "dit-doos"

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