Album Reviews

Air – Love 2

(Virgin) UK release date: 5 October 2009

We join Love 2’s opening track Do The Joy already in progress, as we did La Femme d’Argentover a decade ago. But whereas the sliding of the master levelon the intro to Air’s classic debut Moon Safari revealed light hand-drummingand a groovy, agreeable bass line, the expos� is far more ominous onelectronic extraordinaires Jean-Beno�t Dunckel andNicolas Godin’s sixth opus, Love 2.

A lurking bass, somewhat akin to Tool‘s Forty Six And 2, ahowling Moog, unsettling dissonance and robotic utterances aboutextinction make for a rather inauspicious beginning.This is familiar terrain, mind you, as the duo has frequentlyexhibited a flair for the melancholic, not least theirmasterful work on The Virgin Suicides soundtrack. But on Love 2, are the pair once again embracing apocalypse and madness, as they didon 10,000Hz Legend?

Au contraire, mon fr�re.

Happily nestled in their new Parisian lair, Atlas, and vastlyoutnumbered by faithful friends animated by the flow ofelectric current rather than blood, a now hermetic Air opt forsimplicity, freshness, pleasure and, of course, love in what becomesa sound denunciation of the bleak and worrisome. Do The Joy basicallypresents the ailment that the subsequent 11 tracks aim tosalve.

This is not to say they’ve completely reverted to thevintage peachiness of old, nor that eschewing outside help(save the percussive assistance of “Close Up” tour mate JoeyWaronker and mixing contributions by St�phane “Alf” Briat) signalsan overhauling of their approach to musical composition. Left totheir own devices, Air choose instead to rely on their basic suite of electronicinstruments, idiosyncratic melodic sequences and oft-processed vocalsthat have defined their sound since their inception.

Air’s immersive soundscapes continue to be defined bytheir characteristic array of synthesized instruments and primarilysmooth, melodious rhythms. Coupled with the processed, gender-bendingvocals of the two men themselves, the texture and pulse of Love 2 isimmediately recognizable, distinctly 1970s and instantly captivating.

The setting for Love is a sumptuous, dimly lit lounge in which onlythe title or distant, synthesized tones may be sung. Meanwhile,simple, ticking beats and bass underscore lushly echoedpiano and playful flutes and quickly melt the tension created by theopening track. Later they switch to harmonica and acoustic guitar for the mellowpop gems Heaven’s Light and Sing Sang Sung.

Only the digitized buzzes atop the luscious brass, livelyrecorders, synthesized strings and rolling piano lines in TropicalDisease preclude the song from being mistook for the backing of a35-year-old soap opera’s closing credits. Even the warbling,hazy tones evident as the track shifts to its gentler close, as wellas various parts of the remainder of the album, do well toartificially date the material.

The pace quickens as the action-thriller-like Be A Bee and Eat My Beat showcase dizzyingly aggressiveelectronic musings, as well as opportunities for Waronker to exhibit some control over themetrical sequences with fills and dramatic shifts inrhythm. This is especially true of the former which, with its haunting, synthetic background vocals and eerie,synthesizer-based sirens, calls to mind Dead Bodies from The Virgin Suicides.

Love 2 is a triumph, effectively representing a now veteran act capable of returning to its roots yet managing still to produce novel results. With a distinct sound and inventivenessthat have distinguished them throughout their career, as well asnewfound independence and inspiration in hand, Dunckel and Godin havesucceeded in creating an album that is bothinstantly engaging and worthy of countless repeat listens.

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More on Air
Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Air @ Somerset House, London
Air – Love 2
Air @ Forum, London
Air @ Royal Festival Hall, London