Saturday, 4 February 2012

Air - Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Nicolas Godin & Jean-Benoit Dunckel, the dual identity of french tempo-chillers Air, have for the past dozen years provided us with a naively affective convection of easy-listening delicacy. Moon Safari, now fourteen years old, remains one of the biggest pioneering and refreshing collections of electronica melodies ever created. Later releases, though brought-up less in the many circles of discussion, continued to display the duo's undeniable affection for futurist constructs and romanticist explorations. Now in 2012, we have Air's seventh outing - and sixth full-length album - into this fully-stretching excursion. Le Voyage Dans La Lune, a traversing homage to the 1902 black-and-white french silent film of the same name, attempts to continue the band's escapism into elevating electronica.

At least it tries to, given that this is an album clocking just over the half-hour mark and from its name and conceptual relation, appears to be more of a projected response rather than a delivery of subjective material. 'Astronomical Club' snails across in a wallowing of percussion and harsh spikes of brass. Slowly, the track subsides somewhat passively into more acoustic territory, signature Air pianos gliding between the wavering of synths. As an opener, it sets the following track 'Seven Stars' up quite nicely to lead us into more open and adventurous trekking. The drums take on a more rattling pattern this time, as Godin provides his whispery vocals over spaceship-twirling sound effects and closed-space piano chords. But much like its previous counterpart, the track dissolves its initial build and reverts to a bass-centred drive to the finish line. It feels almost hurried along, as if already lost its intrigue and merely being played for the sake of reaching the required track length.

But it's welcoming to see the band have not entirely decided on exploring the lunar reaches at the expense of their compositions. Beyond the somewhat forgetful piano interlude, 'Parade' provides us with a surprising venture into contemporary indie pop/rock pop. For a band well-known for retreating into relaxations of jolly chillout melodies, it's good to see the duo venturing into lesser-known territories with a song that's as upbeat and daring as their discography is downbeat and relational. 'Parade' is a swash of guitar notes and energetic drum beats, all connected by a floating sigh of choir-like vocals and off-key lurkings of buzzes here and there.

'Sonic Armada' just-as-equally revisions their previous adventurous into more steadfast downtempo vibes as was shown on Love 2 via the passionate 'Tropical Disease' & note-specific 'Night Hunter'. Here, the song appears to combine the former two's successes, manifesting in a sort of gruesomely treading of faulty machinery and jolly organs. The on-off jagged interruption of guitars and ever-decreasing stability of the featured electronics gives it its well-deserved tense vibes.

It's a shame that I must unveil, as a result, that this is where the album not only peaks, but seemingly ends regarding its promise and potential for climbatizing the band's delicate reaches. 'Who Am I Now?' and the brief 'Decollage' linger on the edge of ambience but provide too much repeated usage of drums and uninspiring vocals to create anything humble or inspiring in its structure. 'Cosmic Trip' is a step-up and provides some interesting percussion usage in both the low and high octaves, but in the end feels much more like another intermission filler than a full-fledged piece of music.

'Lava', the album's - now sounding more like a soundtrack than a stand-alone recording - closer is more reminiscent of Moon Safari's balance of lazed instrumentation and fluttering synths, an ideal closer but nothing out of the ordinary or breaking boundaries anytime soon. And thus, we are at the end - 31 minutes having passed by and no doubt you will trying to recollect the multitude of over-stretched drum loops and tinkling piano keys that sum up Air's current trend and, ultimately here, drawbacks. This is a record seeping with homages of space and full-flung exploration, no doubt, but as a result it leaves many a holes in its progression. Air have managed to pull off a feat here and there in providing a rocketing atmosphere behind their relaxed mindset of acoustics, bass, synths and drums. But in the wider aspect, Le Voyage Dans La Lune feels almost too centralized in its direction, purposely disregarding other avenues altogether. And as much as I'd prefer not to use it, there is one word - one term - that comes up again and again that sums up the duo's execution of this short and linear journey upwards. Safe.



  1. Call me a sellout if you'd like, but I prefer the Smashing Pumpkins version of Le Voyage Dans La Lune more. Just couldn't get into this concept album.

    1. >Anonymous
      >Bests - Mon

      I have to agree.