Japanese version of their 2007 album includes one bonus track, 'Time Capsule'. Now entering the 10th year of a highly illustrious career that has seen the band grow in stature to become one of the most instantly recognizable names in music, Air (Nicolas Godin and JB Dunckel) return with their most seductive and accomplished album to date, full of the rich musical invention that their millions of fans worldwide have come to expect, and one that will forever cement their reputation as two of the most talented musicians of their generation. Having practically created their own sub-genre with 1998's classic Moon Safari , Air continues to enjoy one of the most avid fanbases of any band as well as the admiration of celebrities, press and other media contacts. With each new album, Air's foothold in the U.S. market becomes stronger and their career is awash in artistic and commercial highlights.Not only are they among the most constantly requested bands for film and TV licensing, they are also a major draw on the live circuit,having sold out the 18,000 seater Hollywood Bowl in 2004 in support of their previous benchmark album Talkie Walkie. Their U.S. catalog sales are fast approaching the 1,000,000 mark and are among the most consistent of any band in their standing, attracting many thousands of new fans each year. Pocket Symphony sees the band re-uniting with Grammy-winning producer Nigel Godrich and features collaborations with Jarvis Cocker (One Hell Of A Party) and Neil Hannon ( Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping). Twelve brand new Air songs that ooze the classic Air sound of swirling synths, crisp percussion, mellow charm and ethereal bliss, all with a far-Eastern twist courtesy of Nicolas Godin's new found interest in Asian instrumentation, namely the Koto and the Shamisen, a 3-stringed instrument which is one of Japan's most popular classical instruments. Working their way throughout the album as musical ricochets, these unearthly sounds add another motif to Air's magnificent sonic architecture.
Some bands like to thwart expectations, and Air is one of them. "Spacemaker," the opening of Pocket Symphony
, sounds like a cousin to their instrumental retro-lounge "La Femme D'Argent" from 1998's Moon Safari
, right down to the electric bass break in the middle. But this isn't a return to their breakthrough sound. "Spacemaker" really does pave the way for an almost classically somnolent outing from the French duo. Air once proclaimed, "In any classical song you can take five seconds of it and make a loop and you make a great pop song with it." I think they took that to heart on an album that echoes Debussy, Bach, and Reich, but which also contains a Beatlesque eclecticism redolent of Revolver
. But instead of the Beatles' Indian flourishes, Air look to Japan, using a plucked koto on a couple of tracks, but also a zen garden sense of sonic placement. Although Jarvis Cocker from Pulp and Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy sing on a couple of tunes--adding some emotional gravitas--Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel do most of the vocalizing in their preternatural Munchkins-on-Quaaludes lisp. Air are known for their chilled melancholy, but the mood of Pocket Symphony
is introspectively somber. Only "Mer du Japon" rises to a groove, while the rest recline in a luxurious torpor. That mood works especially well on instrumentals like the minimalist cycles of "Night Sight" and the Enoesque "Lost Message," with its circular piano line and ice-sheathed string synthesizers. Pocket Symphony
won't yield any pop hits, but it could be the soundtrack to endless rainy afternoons. --John Diliberto
--This text refers to an alternate