Album Reviews

Air France – No Way Down

(Something In Construction) UK release date: 23 March 2009

Along with The Tough Alliance and Lindstrøm, Air France are part of a mini-wave of Swedish acts currently being branded as ‘Balearic’.� For many British music fans, that term summons the spirit of Paul Oakenfold DJing to the partying masses in Ibiza sometime around 1988.� But that kind of sun-drenched hedonism doesn’t really provide an accurate picture of Air France’s music.

No Way Down is a great summer record, but it isn’t ‘summery’ in the top-down, blissed-out sense.� Rather, it’s summery in a peculiarly realistic, northern European manner: even at its most outwardly euphoric, the music always seems tinged with melancholia.

Structurally, the music of Air France is best described as a coupling of The Avalanches‘ bricolage production methods with the freshly-laundered, pristine pop of Saint Etienne. The results are largely as good as you could possibly hope for.

Some of No Way Down’s ten tracks are little more than impressionistic sketches.� Much like Boards of Canada, Air France are adept at sampling dialogue and then juxtaposing disparate sentences, achieving a queasy strangeness through re-contextualisation.�� For the most part, though, No Way Down showcases a band blessed with the rare ability to create original, fully-formed pop music from predominately second-hand components.

No Way Down and Beach Party borrow the refrains from the Happy Mondays‘ Hallelujah and Lisa Stansfield‘s Been Around The World respectively.� But Air France don’t rely upon these extant songs for choruses they couldn’t be bothered to write themselves.� Instead, they weave their samples into the fabric of the songs: these tracks are categorically not bootleg ‘mash-ups’.

Elsewhere, No Excuses is bolstered by the kind of euphoric pop melody specific to the kind you’d find on the Now! compilations of the early to mid-nineties: recall, if you can, the chart hits of long-neglected acts such as Haddaway and Rozalla and you’re there.� It is, naturally, amazing.

The very best track here, however, shuns familiarity altogether.� Collapsing At Your Doorstep was among the very best tracks released in 2008 and it remains Air France’s crowning glory.� Brilliantly, its hook comes from two spoken-word samples (“Sorta like a dream, isn’t it?”, enquiries one awestruck youth.� “No, better”, replies another).� It’s a track which will bring unfettered joy whenever it crops up on an iPod shuffle.

If we’re in a mood to quibble, it might be said that marketing No Way Down as a full album is a bit misleading.� It actually consists of two previously-released EPs (last year’s release, also called No Way Down, and 2007’s On Trade Winds) bolted together without any additional tracks. Those who’ve been listening to Air France for the past year will be desperate to hear the band’s creativity given space to unfurl across a proper full-length debut.� For newcomers, however, this is the perfect introduction to a genuinely exciting new(-ish) act.

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Air France – No Way Down