Air: La Voyage Dans La Lune

    Over the last 15 years, French synth duo Air has carved an increasingly limited niche, crafting restrained, down-tempo pop songs more evocative of sleek interior design than anything else. This arc climaxed with Air’s two most recent albums, Pocket Symphony and Love 2, which were stylish to the point of total boredom.

    On Le Voyage Dans la Lune, designed as a soundtrack to Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film of the same title, Air attempts to combat this creative stagnation, trading its normally inoffensive synthesizer textures for tom-heavy live drums, unwieldy synth experiments and even the occasional distorted guitar. On some tracks this approach works excellently, like the brash, driving “Sonic Armada” or album highlight “Seven Stars,” which pairs aggressive motorik rhythms with smooth piano chords and a characteristically breathy vocal by Beach House’s Victoria Legrand.

    Nonetheless, Voyage contains too much filler to really operate as a cohesive album. Tracks like the aimless “Décollage” and the drowsy Brian Eno imitation “Lava,” though pretty, aren’t interesting enough to sustain the listener’s attention, while the cutesy “Who Am I Now,” the album’s only other non-instrumental song, fails to meet the high standard set by “Seven Stars.”

    But even though Le Voyage Dans la Lune is flawed (perhaps a short EP would have been better suited to the material), it may mark the beginning of a new period in Air’s history, one in which the group is willing to stray from its normally tidy approach to music making. This development, though not completely fulfilled on Le Voyage, is an exciting one indeed. (5/10)

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