Monday, March 05, 2007

Air "Pocket Symphony" [iTunes Link]

Some bands like to thwart expectations, and Air is one of them. "Spacemaker," the opening of Pocket Symphony, sounds like a cousin to their instrumental retro-lounge "La Femme D'Argent" from 1998's Moon Safari, right down to the electric bass break in the middle. But this isn't a return to their breakthrough sound. "Spacemaker" really does pave the way for an almost classically somnolent outing from the French duo. Air once proclaimed, "In any classical song you can take five seconds of it and make a loop and you make a great pop song with it." I think they took that to heart on an album that echoes Debussy, Bach, and Reich, but which also contains a Beatlesque eclecticism redolent of Revolver. But instead of the Beatles' Indian flourishes, Air look to Japan, using a plucked koto on a couple of tracks, but also a zen garden sense of sonic placement. Although Jarvis Cocker from Pulp and Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy sing on a couple of tunes--adding some emotional gravitas--Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel do most of the vocalizing in their preternatural Munchkins-on-Quaaludes lisp. Air are known for their chilled melancholy, but the mood of Pocket Symphony is introspectively somber. Only "Mer du Japon" rises to a groove, while the rest recline in a luxurious torpor. That mood works especially well on instrumentals like the minimalist cycles of "Night Sight" and the Enoesque "Lost Message," with its circular piano line and ice-sheathed string synthesizers. Pocket Symphony won't yield any pop hits, but it could be the soundtrack to endless rainy afternoons. [FREE MP3 here].

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