In a recent interview, Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin of the duo Air stated they were trying to get away from their previous pop sound. This begs the question, when has Air ever tried to create pop music?
Their newest album Pocket Symphony accomplishes this goal magnificently, as there are no pop hits located within its twelve tracks. While teenagers won’t be burning up the phone lines at MTV’s Total Request Live begging to hear “Mer Du Japon,” Pocket Symphony is a solid album that fans of Air should enjoy.
The first track, “Space Maker” creates the symphonic feel Dunckel and Godin wanted for the entire album. It could best be described as the overture. It begins with the tapping of wooden blocks and is overlaid with acoustic guitar, piano, and synthesized sounds that build an intense sound. Most of the songs on Pocket Symphony are sparse with lyrics, and this is one of several that are purely instrumental.
“One Hell of a Party” marks the exploration of Eastern sounds for the band. Inspired by his girlfriend, Godin learned the Japanese instruments the koto and shamisen. The song provides an interesting blend of sounds with the twang of Asian stringed instruments, but with English lyrics sung in a stilted, French accent, the vocals seem disconnected from the rest of the song, making them distracting. “Mer Du Japon” continues with Eastern flavor but the sound is much more modern and contains French lyrics sung in Haiku form. The blend is much more natural and it seems to come more naturally to the duo.
Air rounds out the Pocket Symphony with the improvised and organic song “Night Sight.” This instrumental shows off classical influences with a distinctly modern sound, using an irregular keyboard pattern backed by an ethereal synthesizer sound. On a personal note, I listened to this album during a yoga session as I tried to write the review in my head. While the entire album fit nicely with yoga, this last song helped me to relax and bring my thoughts together. I’m so metaphysical.
Air has always provided a good place to get away from the typical pop music flooding the airwaves and blaring out of speakers at Safeway. Pocket Symphony is no exception, and rather than providing a catchy tune, the album creates an encompassing atmosphere that is both different and comfortable.