Review Summary: Air’s debut is a wistful space walk of an album, with only a few minor weights that tie it down and stop it being truly out of this world
Minimalism! A trendy idea from decades ago, that perhaps grows more and more credible when viewed in the light of a hectic modern life. Minimalist music, particularly, can be a great escape from all the hustle and bustle. Air
, a French duo of synth-meisters took this idea and casually slapped an acute pop-sensibility onto it, then launched it into the peace and loneliness of outer-space. The result? Moon Safari
, a dreamily soft album of murmuring bass-lines, vintage Moog synth effects, occasional processed vocals and some of the most memorably smooth songs around. ‘La Femme d’Argent’
sets the tone straight away with its stylish bass and whirring space effects; this lounge-around-pleasantly-not-doing-very-much-at-all track throws blank, Euro-cool sentiments out in spades, as well as having a rather sexual undercurrent. ’All I Need’
, easily the best song on this already superb album, effortlessly exudes a truly Parisian café-chic feeling; the light guitar in the background perfectly complementing Beth Hirsch’s vocals and lending the track an obscenely sophisticated character.
No; Moon Safari
is simply an expertly crafted piece of work; take ’Talisman’
, a powerful instrumental that serves up cascades of strings that build to an extremely dramatic-sounding finale; the sentimental nostalgia of ’Ce Matin La’
, with its synths interspersed with guitar and a tuba that paints a pretty picture of a quaint French street; or the hypnotic glockenspiel at the end of ’You Make It Easy’
, adding a trippy feel to this vulnerable ballad. ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’
sprinkles the speakers with bleeps, waaahs and twinkles to create the effect of looking up at the sky and counting the stars, though the sound is so alien that you’re not altogether convinced that the stars are being seen from this
Despite the thematic approach, there has obviously been an effort made to ensure the waves of spacey-synths don’t get too monotonous; and for the most part, this plan succeeds. The sense of humour running through certain tracks is integral to this. As well as the affected and rather daft ’Kelly Watch The Stars’
, the sure-fire hit, ’Sexy Boy’
, fair stomps
with glam-synthery, camp attitude and disco-esque thumps in its homage to l‘homme ideal
; a ridiculous track, and so naturally enjoyable, with a catchy chorus that comes very close to irritating. Elsewhere, the warped melody of ’Remember’
is processed to within an inch of its life, and is all the better for it; a mid-album track that reminds you not to take it all so seriously.
Though that’s not to say it’s all flawless. Though the direction is clearly defined as a relaxing space odyssey, the endless waves of softened beeps and emulator synths do occasionally get a bit much. By the time you get to ’New Star In The Sky’
, you can’t help but think that maybe you’ve heard those vocoders and moogs a thousand times since the album started. Any introduction of harder, adventurous effects would have perhaps thrown the album off course; yet, you do seem to be inexorably drawn to the conclusion that maybe the risk would have been worth it.
Still, the dynamic duo were creative enough to ensure that their melodies offered enough change; the slightly sleazy wurps of ’Le Voyage de Penelope’
bring out the soul of this stark song as plodding farewell music, while the scant lyrics offer variety enough, in the form of waiting for marriage proposals (’All I Need’
), guardian angels (’You Make It Easy’
) and newborn babies (’New Star In The Sky’
). Also, given the hard-dance music and trip-hop supremacy at the time, it was brave and yet inspired for Air to delve right back into a New Wave feeling to showcase their interstellar musical trip. The rather dated synths perfectly complemented the 80s nostalgia of the time, while delivering something new in the form of a floating synthetic album, that used electronica to extract emotion from technology. That’s a significant point of note on Moon Safari
; its cautious, ethereal shimmerings of sound merely hint
at emotions, rather than delving deeper; only the voice of Beth Hirsch adds a human quality to these ostensibly synthetic yet affecting emotions. It’s altogether an original experience, and deserved the swathes of glowing reviews it received on its release. Though perhaps not the flawless masterpiece it’s commonly viewed to be, it still has some of the greatest electronic tracks you’ll hear, and has yet to be improved upon by its creators.
This album is a lodestone of dreamy romance, and though the blank waaaahs
sometimes mount up, the ever-changing themes and artificial yet effective dramas are there to surprise you when you least expect it. And that, I suppose, is the real beauty of this album. Moon Safari
is indeed ’airy’
, but it’s not so insubstantial that it just floats away.