Tiny Home Central Review
AIR Moon Safari (Source)
Air ("French band", says their logo helpfully) are the duo whose contribution to Etienne De Crecy's "Super Discount" compilation (raved about below) was one of that album's highlights, and whom you may have heard enlivening the stagnant waters of the torpid top 40 with their "Sexy Boy" single.
"Moon Safari" is, I believe, Air's debut album proper, and as such they seem to have intended to cover as many bases as possible in the space of two sides of vinyl (and in doing so make the briefest dance album the world has seen since the Aphex Twin's 33-minute "Richard D James Album" opus) - Roni Size, Goldie and others fond of four-album-plus releases take note. Unfortunately all this means that "Moon Safari" is only sporadically interesting, and at its considerable best when being unselfconsciously instrumental, such as the opening track "La Femme D'Argent", a Moog groove so effortlessly relaxed, stylish and 1972 that you expect Miles Davis to start parping along at any moment. "New Star In The Sky" could be a softer-focused version of Blur's similarly celestial "Strange News From Another Star".
That "Super Discount" tune, "Solidissimo", appears here as "All I Need", reconstructed with vocal support from the very Beth Orton-like Beth Hirsch, and unfortunately much of the lazy, stretched-out charm of the original has been lost in the process. It's as if Air were trying to make a dance album for people who wouldn't normally buy that kind of thing: all the usual dance or ambient conventions seem to have been chucked, or at least compressed into the confines of a four-minute (radio friendly) song. In doing so the sense of relaxation, of allowing the music to gradually build and subside, has been ditched in an attempt to hook the gnat-like attention span of yer average single buyer.
Another complaint that could justifiably be levelled at "Moon Safari" is that it's almost post-ironic: it's all good and well to chuckle at stuff like Mike Flowers, safe in the knowledge that it's/he's all a merrie jest, but it seems at times as if Air are actually 'gently mocking' the whole easy listening revival crowd (is it still hip, even?) rather than the source material. There's being clever and being clever-clever, and sometimes Air swing disarmingly towards the latter, swathing tracks with Jeff Lynne-like vocoderisms ("Sexy Boy", "Kelly Watch The Stars") or ripping off the drum track from The Beach Boys' "Do It Again" ("Remember").
"Moon Safari" is not a bad album, in fact it's an entertaining and diverting listen. It's just unfortunate that other Air material I've heard suggests that "Moon Safari" might also be the product of deliberate commercial compromise, to the detriment of what this band can do very, very well.