Music Reviews
Le Voyage dans la Lune

Air Le Voyage dans la Lune

(Virgin) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Did the internet ruin Air's chance to become one of the biggest bands in the world? Think back to 1998 (a frighteningly long time ago now), when tracks from their debut album Moon Safari were everywhere - you couldn't turn on BBC1 without coming across a snippet of Talisman or Ce Matin La (Sexy Boy was, perhaps, just a little too obvious), making them sort of the Coldplay of their day (but far less annoying). Then, the Napster-induced democratisation of music distribution happened and suddenly the obscure spaced out 70s lounge music that the duo had expended so much effort on lovingly recreating was almost completely up for grabs.

Was it that? Or was it the fact that they had seemingly balked at the success that they had achieved and retreated to the realm of the (slightly) more obscure, following up their breakthrough with the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's adaptation of The Virgin Suicides (surely one of the few occasions where a soundtrack album was more eagerly anticipated than the film it came from) and the glossy prog of 10,000 Hz Legend

Or maybe, after Jean Michel Jarre's success, the world still wasn't quite ready for another pair of French superstar synth-fiddlers?

Le Voyage dans la Lune, the duo's seventh album (depending on how you're counting them) was initially planned as a live accompaniment to a recently restored hand-tinted print of Georges Méliès' still-extraordinary silent short of the same name (anybody who saw Martin Scorsese's handsome, if child-boring, epic Hugo will be aware of the film's curiously moving powers) However, while the visuals are ravishing and the intentions are good, truthfully, the record looks set to merely continue the band's career trajectory of the past decade; it being another elegantly constructed, but ultimately inessential work.

Unsurprisingly, going by its soundtrack roots, the album draws most closely from The Virgin Suicides' template with its reliance on short, rhythmic tracks, occasionally peppered with (fairly meaningless) vocal samples delivered in faux-informative monotone. Although, its not an entirely dry experience - it does occasionally encroach on the relative commercialism of mid-career highlight Talkie Walkie. There are plenty of moments of vintage synths bubbling away, concocting something exquisite, with even some of the shortest tracks (and they do get very short) having a pleasant sense of ebb and flow about them. 

But still things don't quite take off, perhaps because there's no real Playground Love or Cherry Blossom Girl style standout to make up for this - the closest we have to that is Parade, with its jagged guitars and Suicide Underground-nodding dramatic chorus notes. It's not as if there's anything seriously wrong with the album - the only real misfire being their collaboration with fellow synth enthusiasts Au Revoir Simone, whose childlike, meandering contribution to Who Am I Now? is, at best, fairly tiresome - but the question that ultimately arises is what exactly is the point of all this artifice? Seven Stars may feature the languid tones of Beach House's Victoria Legrand, a rather Daft Punk-inspired breakdown and some gorgeous production work, but the fact that its melody is uncannily similar to David Gray's This Year's Love doesn't help to dismiss worries that all this is, perhaps, a little bit on the dull side.  

The fact that Le Voyage dans la Lune comes packaged with a DVD copy of the film that inspired it makes it pretty much an essential purchase anyway, but as for the music itself? It's elegant, but hardly likely to inspire any particularly stirring flights of fancy, or any reevaluations of the band's post-Moon Safari discography.