Moon Safari

Air

Caroline Records, 1998

http://www.aircheology.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/08/2004

It's been a hard few years for France/U.S. relations. Even at the height of the absurd backlash against the French, I couldn't, wouldn't boycott products from our smug, elitist big brother overseas. In general, they do have the finest wine in the world, they have some of the best cooking techniques under their belts and - heyah - Moon Safari.

For those unfamiliar with Air, the French duo has been an inspiration to director Sofia Coppola, who used Air's music to propel both The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. Released in 1998, Moon Safari is a perplexing listen. It's definitely retro, borrowing heavily from the dance hall/disco sounds of the late '70s. There are parts of the album that would seem perfect blanketing the dance floor at your coolest dance club. Other parts of the album conjure images of elbowing up to the bar at a posh hotel at around 2:30 in the morning and nursing a vodka tonic or spending five uninterrupted hours sprawled out on a leather couch at a non-gentrified coffee house, lost in a set of headphones.nbtc__dv_250

That contrast is especially evident in the first four tracks. The first track, "Femme d'Argent" takes its time to unfold. The groove is stretched over a beautiful, ambient moan. Then, the album takes a silly 180-degree turn with "Sexy Boy"; a platform-boot-sized tongue-in-cheek club number that inexplicably turned into a minor hit and likely cast Air as club music in many unsuspecting listeners' ears. However, one track later and you get a devastating "All I Need," with Beth Hirsh's fragile voice commanding your full attention to the point that you forget the lyrics. But just when you think you're ready to settle into a posh couch and snuggle up with some herbal tea, you get "Kelly Watch The Stars" in the next track, with its groove so bouncy, it sends you back on your feet. If bipolar had a soundtrack in the late-90s, this album would definitely fit the bill.

The album does find its groove toward the end, opting for more chill-out than club-hopping. The last half of the album definitely loses some steam, especially during "Talisman," a song that despite dozens of listens, still sounds like it be playing during a 'boss' stage in a video game. Still, Beth Hirsh returns to set Moon Safari back on track with the chilling "You Make it Easy" and "Voyage de Penelope" finishes off Moon Safari nicely.

Moon Safari ranks with the Chemical Brother's Dig Your Own Hole, Massive Attack's Mezzanine, Portishead's Dummy and Tricky's Maxinquaye as definitive purchases for techno/electronica in the '90s. The album's only major flaw is that its first four songs are so jaw-droppingly amazing that it inevitably loses momentum. Still, there are far worse sins an album can commit. A near-masterpiece.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Caroline Records, and is used for informational purposes only.