Review Summary: 14 years after Moon Safari the French comedown duo finally get to explore the lunar surface
It should come as no surprise that Georges Melies’ acclaimed Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip To The Moon) would arrive in the same year as man’s attempt to reach the farthest points of the as-yet, undiscovered regions of the world: the 1902 Discovery Expedition. Here was a world now fully wrapped up in the wide-eyed wonderment of a new century, pre world war and economic breakdown, fresh from the marvels and discoveries of the industrial revolution, ready and waiting for the technological marvels earlier hinted at to be put to practical use. Melies’ film captured the imagination of a world eager to explore beyond its boundaries, to push the pursuit of the unknown one step further beyond the previously unimaginable. Putting aside its acclaim as the world’s first fully-fledged science fiction movie, it riveted a world already obsessed with what lay beyond our own skies, thanks largely in part to H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds, released only a few scant years earlier. Air’s latest release, part new LP and part quasi-soundtrack to the re-released and painstakingly reproduced 16 minute film attempts to capture that sense of adventure, that exhilarating nervousness at conquering the unknown. And while for the most part it finds itself successful, it does so in the most unorthodox of fashions.
Le Voyage Dans La Lune
is an exercise in exploration, both in atmosphere and design. Built around the French duo’s respectable command of downtempo chillout and psychedelic rock (a love affair introduced on their second official full-length, 2001’s 10,000 Hz Legends
), nods to the wandering mysticism of Pink Floyd and the comical synthesizer driven rock of the 60’s are also on full display. And while these jaunts into the deep swinging grooves of yesteryear have seen the duo veer wildly off course from their drugged out and sexed up beginnings, it oddly works here, however it ends up being perhaps a touch more charming and cute than anything truly honest – ‘Sonic Armada’ with its nonsensical squeals is on the one hand, a stroke of genius, and yet strangely grating at the same time. That it’s followed up by the masterstroke that is ‘Who Am I Now?’ (a collaboration with indie poppers Au Revoir Simone) is also calmingly unpleasant; the distinct transition between the two is absurdly jarring, given that the two pieces operate on completely different plains – one a rambling and rollicking bubblegum rock concoction of Scooby Doo proportions, the other a kaleidoscopic fairy tale that attempts to posit the notion that if here we are, in the heavens surrounded by the presence of gods, does that not make us gods ourselves?
But the payoff here is that Air are working under the guise of orchestration, providing illumination to silent anecdotes. As such, the album twists and turns, loosely returning to threads whilst in the midst of discovering new ones, playing along with the scene changes. And under that guise it allows the French duo to finally work to a consistent theme, something that they’ve apparently had a hard time adapting to recently. Working to a specific idea they excel, much in the same way as they did with their excellent interpretation of The Virgin Suicides. ‘Astronomic Club’ is all menace and foreboding, an overture that attempts to prey on the doubts of the perilous journey ahead, while by comparison ‘Decollage’ is the long overdue arrival, mysterious and tentative as the first steps in a strange new world.
As the long awaited return to form that Air have only hinted at on their last outings, Le Voyage Dans La Lune
fails to contain enough evidence that Moon Safari
wasn’t just the result of being in the right place at the right time, but it also shows that the duo are far from running out of ideas any time soon. It’s by no means the work of art that it accompanies, but it’s almost as endearing and charming as that begrudging look of acceptance on the countenance of the moon at the sight of its unwelcome guests.