Les synthesisers are back, but this time Air have dragged Beck Hansen, Jason Falkner, Buffalo Daughter, Ken Andrews and acoustic guitars and flutes with them for an orgy of lo-fi meets hi-fi, of Beck meets Pink Floyd, waving at Jean-Michel Jarre and Abba along the way. Electronic pop, is it?
If this year has thrown up many surprises, 10,000Hz Legend must be close to the top of the list for anyone who has bought Premiers Symptomes, The Virgin Suicides or Moon Safari.
The use of computer voices in the divine Sex Born Poison (with sensual vocals by Buffalo Daughter) and How Does It Make You Feel contrast sharply with Beck’s vocals on the song he co-wrote, The Vagabond. A thumping bass synth vies for attention in Radian with gorgeous flutes and acoustic guitar, producing finely balanced music suitable for chart position as much as film scores, but most of all for bedrooms, with the lights turned off.
While How Does It Makes You Feel could easily have been a hit for Pink Floyd, Radio #1 sounds like Abba’s Does Your Mother Know slowed from 45 to 33. People In The City just gets better, with characteristic atmospheric synths and Kraftwerk-esque beats over screwed-up chords which suddenly give way to a monotonous list of adjectives overlayed with some spectacular special effects and that acoustic guitar again; but then it becomes a heavily morphed synth melange of car horns, scratched records, piano and slide guitar… just wonderful. For this and Sex Born Poison alone, they deserve every album of the year award going. So… it is fusion, right?
Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, the metronome-like beat of Don’t Be Light cuts across morphed vocals and horror movie synth-screams and strings, petering out into a maddening echo which gets replaced by a very Jarre-like beat (from somewhere around his Magnetic Fields era); but like so much that we hear, it is all a bluff, as in comes a tambourine and an electric guitar to wig out completely. Rock?!
There will inevitably be criticism of the album for being patchy from some quarters, as critics and public struggle to take in the sheer number of rich, clear sounds that Messrs. Dunckel and Godin have elicited from acoustic and digital instruments alike. Such critics should play the album more than once and attempt to deny that it is not the most articulate expression yet of how electronic and acoustic music can live together, how genre is and always has been a silly concept dreamt up by critics to label that which they fail to describe. Having produced an album like 10,000Hz Legend, Air show that they have scant regard for the genremongers either.