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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Air’s latest album takes listeners on journey through cosmos

Alejandro Jofree/Flickr
Alejandro Jofree/Flickr

If humans ever leave earth to inhabit outer space, “Le Voyage dans la Lune” will surely be the soundtrack for their journey.

The latest offering by French electronic music duo Air – released on Feb. 6 – is beautifully creepy, comforting and eerily weird, all in one go. It has the cultish marching defiance of brave cosmic pioneers and the spooky uncertainty of the unexplored void. The album induces psychedelic head rolls as it nods to prog rock and retains just a sliver of Nicholas Godin’s and Jean-Benoit Dunckel’s flirtatious vocals.

Air’s latest work is actually based around an original score for the restored version of Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film “Le Voyage dans la Lune” (“A Trip to the Moon”).

The 14-minute sci-fi film, though groundbreaking at the time and crucial to the development of imaginative cinema, now resembles a cute school project – something hatched from the imagination of Michel Gondry (and therefore quite apt for Air’s involvement).

The new album is an extension of that score, making it the latest addition to Air’s back-catalogue of space-themed works.

It’s not as peaceful as previous albums. Unlike Air’s sexy expedition on their 1998 debut album “Moon Safari,” “Le Voyage dans la Lune” requires the listener to commit to withstanding the psychological effects of a journey into space. This is a tall order when one just wants to listen to some music while sorting through a pile of laundry on an afternoon.

Over the course of 30 minutes, the listener will come to feel like a well-seasoned astronaut, familiar with the beauty and terror of outerspace. They will be soothed by the vocal melodies of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand on the fantastic “Seven Stars,” and they will be freaked out by the eerie tones of Au Revoir Simone on “Who Am I Now?”

“Seven Stars” is undoubtedly the album’s standout track. It follows the guitar-heavy starting signal of “Astronomic Club” with more familiar Air fare and a piano chord strangely evocative of David Gray.

Will our voyage to space be purgatory-esque – will the waiting room for the rocket be full of musicians who were once successful and are coming back to join the ride? Well, ultimately no, but there is definitely a sense that we are all in this adventure together.

Interlude “Retour sur terre” briefly reassures this soothing sentiment before the psychedelic “Parade” catapults the audience into an overwhelming instrumental cosmos.

Here is where the tone for the album is set, an on-off track formula of a soothing song followed by punchy shake-up. It has a spluttering effect that brings to mind Méliès’ original creation.

“Moon Fever” is another high point and might remind Air fans of “Alone in Kyoto,” the plinky-plonky Japanese ode from 2004’s “Talkie Walkie.” Film buffs may remember Scarlett Johannson’s mid-holiday moment of self-discovery in a Kyoto park from “Lost In Translation.”

Progressive-styled song “Sonic Armada” follows, offering a moment best appreciated from a futon mattress with some friends in a smoke-filled room around 5 a.m. – accompanied by some clichéd college chat about Pink Floyd.

“Dark Side of the Moon” comparisons may be overdone, but they begrudgingly apply to “Who I Am Now?” as Au Revoir Simone do indeed seem quite confused about their identities as they swing between French and English in this vaguely sinister lullaby.

“Lava” rounds up the album, a fantastic end to an emotional adventure that suggests post-apocalyptic defiance from the survivors in space.

The confident construction of “Le Voyage dans la Lune” leaves a lasting impression of the album as a reminder of Air’s brilliance. The duo once again has demonstrated their ease in creating soundtracks, a clue that was first offered on their “The Virgin Suicides” original motion score.

Several songs might cause in the listener a longing to watch the restored “Le Voyage dans la lune” film with the new score. Happily, the film is included in a bonus DVD with the album.

Air just make it look so easy. You can imagine the duo in a studio, muttering, “Euh, we just try zis?” “Le Voyage dans la lune” is the result – a bizarre journey which sweeps us away into a downright weird but persuasively cuddly Milky Way.

Stevie Mackenzie-Smith can be reached at [email protected].

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