“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. So reads one of the most famous quotes about our profession, which has a curiously uncertain origin. Said to come from Elvis Costello, it is a sentence that could have originated from any of a handful of his contemporaries in the late 1970s.
Nicolas Godin, as an architectural graduate who moved seamlessly into musical composition, would surely have been aware of its existence, and could well have taken it in hand for the construction of Concrete And Glass. For this is an album of pure architectural beauty that inspires dancing, if only of the slow kind.
We know Godin as the founder of Air, whose sonic architecture is pretty much beyond reproach. The late 1990s were theirs once Moon Safari was released, a record that was chilled but had a certain intensity thanks to its alignment with film soundtracks and some well-chosen guest vocalists. More than two decades on, Air may be a sleeping partner but Godin is still making music that closely adheres to these starting points.
This is one classy album, as its first vocal salvo Back To Your Heart illustrates. By his admission Godin has spent weeks, nay months with the overall sound, and the work has paid dividends. This is the sort of sound that 1980s hi-fi buffs would relish, with so much care given to the resultant sound that it recalls Sade in her heyday, or The Blue Nile. The rigorous attention to detail ensures that even if the lyrics had no content, the listener could luxuriate in the sheer quality of the sound.
Thankfully the songs deliver too. Godin chose to work with guest vocalists who were either not so well known or suited his music – which explains the choice of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, who explores a more soulful side to his voice in Catch Yourself Falling, shadowed by an equally sonorous bass line. The lesser known vocalists are if anything more effective, with a subtle but deeply affecting contribution from Kate NV ensuring Back To Your Heart hits all of the right spots.
Godin complements this with a languid analogue tone, which runs throughout the album. Take Me To The Border is so laid back it’s horizontal, while Turn Right Turn Left adds delectable strings. Cité Radieuse is a more intricate construction, easy on the ear but turning small pockets of music into a more substantial whole. Here he shows off more classical credentials, as does We Forgot Love, building its minimal material to a soft breathed vocal from Kadhja Bonet.
Concrete And Glass is a fine piece of architecture, typically classy and emotive while providing some very necessary warmth and light for the January darkness. We may well pine for something new from Air, but in their absence this will do very nicely indeed.