Orthodox is not a word that you could ever use to describe Air’s musical output. For the past five years, JB Dunckel and Nicolas Godwin have been pushing back the boundaries of dance, ambient and, if you like, contemporary electro-classical music in a way that has made them the benchmark for many emerging acts (Stylophonic et al).
City Reading – Tre Storie Western, however, takes this unorthodoxy one step further. City is a best-selling Italian book by Alessandro Baricco, “Italy’s most famous contemporary writer”, and City Reading, as the name implies, consists of the author reading passages from the book with original music by Air in the background.
Unfortunately, background is the operative word here. Don’t get me wrong – Air’s music is as accomplished as ever. Opener Bird is a case in point, featuring expansive, droning keyboards and lovely, acoustic guitar touches that perfectly conjure up images of winged creatures in mid-flight, as required.
However, to be frank, I’d rather’ve heard such pieces unaccompanied, or at least with a more dynamic and less monotonous narrative than that delivered by Signor Baricco, who inadvertently manages to dispel the notion that Italian might be one of the more romantic-sounding languages in the world.
Being the Gallic wags that they are, Air tell us on the CD sleeve that, having rolled out this project live and now as an album, they are contemplating whether to make a video game. Even if they were not joking, I have no doubt that they are more than capable of triumphing in that field. Perhaps they’ll take my advice though – and tell their new guest vocalist not to give up his day job.