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coverpic flag France - Full Moon 62 - 11/01/01

Air
10.000 Hz Legend
Source/Virgin

The second album from Air, released at the beginning of the summer, is indisputably a masterpiece. If I usually am fired with enthusiasm for French bands through the Luna Kafé columns, I admit that I have got a stinger during the listening of 10.000 Hz Legend album. What's more, after the success of Moon Safari, their first album released three years ago, we waited for a confirmation. Esecially after the soundtrack The Virgin Suicides released the last year.

Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, Air's musicians, use to surprise us. For example, they were in concert in London at the Shepherds Bush Empire at the end of April, and they played to a packed house even though their new album was not released yet. One of reasons for this success was that Moon Safari has sold in 600,000 copies in England, six times as much as in France! All the same, two days after this English show, they played in Paris to a packed house as well. No surprise, since this was their first gig in Paris for more than two years.

Like their English show the album begins with Electronic Performers, a kind of homage to Kraftwerk. With this track, which sounds like a quiet disco combined with stringed instruments, the musicians explain their musical step. As soon as the second song come out we feel all the ambition which emanates from the disconcerting 10.000 Hz Legend, because How Does It Make You Feel is really different, with its spheric atmosphere and its female chorus, its quiet voice, closely related to Craig Armstrong's sounds. Also disconcerting, Radio #1 reminds us of the eighties' new-wave like The Human League or Ultravox. This is the only single off the album because it is the... shortest track, as Nicolas Godin tells: 'Radio #1 [...], it is the only one [track] which has a length of 3'30, with a "catchy" chorus. That is why people have thought it could be a single, and the label has released it like a single.' Even so, this track is as efficient as Sexy Boy and its heady refrain three years ago.

The Vagabond comes with a new outlook, more folk-rock, due to the presence of a distinguished guest named... Beck, singer and harmonica player at the same time. What's more we could think that Beck has composed this song, and that it's just been arranged by Air for the album. Radian is one of the high points of the album, and is one of the two instrumental songs, with a 3-minute long introduction which carries away in a meditative coma. An other paradox of 10.000 Hz Legend, because Radian is closer to a soundtrack-track than to the single Radio #1. While Lucky And Unhappy reminds us of the souvenirs of the honeyed pop of Black Box Recorder, with some additional electronic sounds which emphasizes its futurist atmosphere, Sex Born Poison starts with a folk guitar, by 'frustrating' our ears for the umpteenth time... and simply ends with the delightful voice of Buffalo Daughter come with overloaded keyboards sounds in the background.

People In The City, especially its introduction worthy of Kraftwerk, is in sharp contrast, while Wonder Milky Bitch switches to futurist sounds, with a somptuous happy conclusion. It is also one of the (too!) rare tracks sung by Air, unlike Don't Be Light (sung by Beck) which is - according to Nicolas Godin - a kind of medley of this album, with its Star Wars introduction and its violins worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. The album ends with the marvellous Caramel Prisoner, the second instrumental and indisputably one of the most beautiful tracks on 10.000 Hz Legend. Defined by a folk guitar and a brilliantly smooth sound. Amazingly efficient! And above all worthy of one of the best - smooth - songs of Pink Floyd! There is also a bonus track, The Way You Lock Tonigh (only for the Japanese import), which is a kind of musical tale from an other world, close to the light tone of the sixties.

10 000 Hz Legend is certainly a great album, very ambitious with a disconcerting side due to a calling into question of the band at every track. This side of the sound is in perfect harmony with the group: "we are at a turning point in our career, either we compose the most fantastic music, or we compose a commercial music. And this album is a real change. We run a risk to be a band without worrying to sell albums". It is certainly a fantastic album, but I agree with these words, Air does not worry about the sale of their album, because it will sell... well!

Copyright © 2001 Patrick Dubail e-mail address

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