Album Reviews

Air – Love 2

(Virgin) UK release date: 5 October 2009

Air - Love 2 We join Love 2’s opening track Do The Joy already in progress, as we did La Femme d’Argent over a decade ago. But whereas the sliding of the master level on the intro to Air‘s classic debut Moon Safari revealed light hand-drumming and a groovy, agreeable bass line, the exposé is far more ominous on electronic extraordinaires Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin’s sixth opus, Love 2.

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

Au contraire, mon frère. Happily nestled in their new Parisian lair, Atlas, and vastly outnumbered by faithful friends animated by the flow of electric current rather than blood, a now hermetic Air opt for simplicity, freshness, pleasure and, of course, love in what becomes a sound denunciation of the bleak and worrisome. Do The Joy basically presents the ailment that the subsequent 11 tracks aim to salve.

This is not to say they’ve completely reverted to the vintage peachiness of old, nor that eschewing outside help(save the percussive assistance of Close Up tour mate Joey Waronker and mixing contributions by Stéphane “Alf” Briat) signals an overhauling of their approach to musical composition. Left to their own devices, Air choose instead to rely on their basic suite of electronic instruments, idiosyncratic melodic sequences and oft-processed vocals that have defined their sound since their inception.

Air’s immersive soundscapes continue to be defined by their characteristic array of synthesized instruments and primarily smooth, melodious rhythms. Coupled with the processed, gender-bending vocals of the two men themselves, the texture and pulse of Love 2 is immediately recognisable, distinctly 1970s and instantly captivating.

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

Only the digitised buzzes atop the luscious brass, lively recorders, synthesized strings and rolling piano lines in Tropical Disease 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 well as various parts of the remainder of the album, do well to artificially date the material.

The pace quickens as the action-thriller-like Be A Bee and Eat My Beat showcase dizzyingly aggressive electronic musings, as well as opportunities for Waronker to exhibit some control over the metrical sequences with fills and dramatic shifts in rhythm. 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 OST.

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 inventiveness that have distinguished them throughout their career, as well as new-found independence and inspiration in hand, Dunckel and Godin have succeeded in creating an album that is both instantly engaging and worthy of countless repeat listens.

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Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune
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Air – Love 2
Air @ Forum, London
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