(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Air, the French duo of Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin, return after an absence of about three years. Their last ‘proper’ album 10,000hz Legend saw the pair move yet further away from the trademark cheesy electronica and chilled out ambience of their first album, the seminal Moon Safari.
With 10,000hz Legend it was nice to see them experimenting with new things, refusing to just re-hash their immensely popular and influential debut but, on the other hand, it was not an easy album to like and it took me a long time before I was able to appreciate its somewhat bizarre charms. Considering Air’s change of musical direction led to such a severe polarisation of opinion, with people either tending to applaud it or loathe it, it was always going to be interesting to see where they went next.
In a sense, Talkie Walkie is a step back from the harsh and angular 10,000hz Legend and is much closer in style to Moon Safari. It’s an easier album to listen to and is less experimental and prog rock-like, with a general return to pop and chill-out styles. However, they haven’t just chosen to re-hash Moon Safari by any means, and nor have they produced an album designed to appeal to the mainstream chill-out scene that’s emerged over the last few years.
The big difference between this and all previous Air albums (but Moon Safari in particular) is the absence of guest vocalists. Although there are “additional vocals” on three of the ten tracks, the lyrics are predominantly sung by the Air boys themselves and they do such a good job that you quickly forget that they ever felt the need to bring in extra help.
Other than that, the album is distinctively Air-like – their ability to pen a good tune, a quirky instrumental, or something which sounds like it’s come straight from a film soundtrack has not dulled despite their diversions into weirder stuff – and you will find this album to be ideal whether you’re using it to chill-out to or as the soundtrack for some summery car journey.
What keeps it fresh, though, is the variety of sounds on offer, from the sublime pop of single “Cherry Blossom Girl”, to the repetitive silliness and innocence of “Surfing On A Rocket”, to the Vangelis’esque “Alone In Kyoto”, to the darker and more experimental sounds of “Another Day” and “Biological”, both of which come closer to the proggier style that Air seemed to be aiming for on 10,000hz Legend and their soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides.
And I’ve still not mentioned my favourite track off the album, the bizarre but dreamily wonderful “Universal Traveler”, which doesn’t quite fit into any of the previous categories.
Granted, this is not a groundbreaking Air album, more like a composite of all the styles they have tried out so far, but you can’t fault the writing or the execution on offer here.
Best tracks: There are lots. I could have easily picked any of the ten on the album, but here are my six faves at the moment – “Venus”, “Cherry Blossom Girl”, “Universal Traveler”, “Another Day”, “Alpha Beta Gaga”, “Alone In Kyoto”.