Air - Talkie Walkie
Moon Safari was Air’s The Bends, in other words the breakthrough album for the chill-out French duo that found itself sitting amongst most music listeners record collections in the late-nineties. Sadly, they’ve since struggled to release anything that has come remotely close to the blissful grooves of songs such as La Femme D’Argent, Sexy Boy or All I Need. Premier Symptomes was re-released to cash in on the success of Moon Safari, even though it contained many Air ideas in a rawer form. The soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides was successful as incidental music but understandably bland on record, and the follow-up album 10,000Hz Legend was considered a huge disappointment, even if it contained collaborations with Beck. The duo’s City Reading project with Alessandro Baricco was virtually ignored as a result.
Thankfully, Air are finally back to their mesmerising best. Their latest album, Talkie Walkie, is their own OK Computer, in that it’s filled with trademark Air sounds whilst acting as a simultaneous reinvention. The chilled ambiance is still intact, and yet there’s a more sinister edge to the proceedings. Moon Safari spawned so many imitations that it was probably hard for both the band and the industry to stay focused on what made it such a compelling album in the first place. Now, it seems, Air have finally realised.
Talkie Walkie is by far Air’s most intense piece of work. There’s hardly a trace of dance-floor grooves appealing to lounge DJs (bar the lush sun-tinged Cherry Blossom Girl) and the album pays more to Kid A or parts of Boards Of Canada or Mum in places, particularly on tracks Run and Universal Traveller. The presence of Radiohead is a big factor on the album, considering Nigel Godrich has been brought in as an outside producer to brilliant effect. Ironically, whereas the duo have already tried their hands at soundtracks, there is enough strong instrumentals with an undercurrent of cinematic stylising on display in Talkie Walkie that could suit most films. The album’s final track, the brilliant Alone In Kyoto sounds like the very best eighties offering of Ryuchi Sakamoto; expect to see certain tracks crop up in movies and adverts over the next year or so.
The new year will see Air brought back in vogue as a band again, and they deserve it based on the evidence of Talkie Walkie. Whether Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin can continue the strong form or dip back towards 10,000Hz Legend depths is in their hands, but for now, the overt quality has returned, and we are treated to a fine album so early on in 2004.