Moon Safari

Mixmag Review

You're French, you're sexy and you've just released a debut album that's set to rule the World. What more could Air want? How about their own religion? "Music, for us, is the only thing," says Air's Jean Benoit Dunckel ernestly. Thin, boyish and clad in a black polo neck, he looks as if he's just stepped out of a Jean Luc Godard film and sounds like the incomprehensible French philosopher on The Day Today. "In fact we consider music is a sort of prayer to the god of music."

His mop-headed other half, Nicolas Godin, nods seriously. "In fact, Jean wants to be a guru because he is only interested in girls and he realises thatmore than being a rock star being a guru will get him girls."

"I will create a sort of religion and the girls will give me their money and they will be obliged to offer their bodies," JB continues. "And we will have success, money, girls and I will be very happy." Then he can't go on and his face creases into a smile. "No, I'm joking."

It seems that two months of promotional chores have taken their toll on Paris' duo du joir. Reminded of portentous claims like "We do not like this world, we want to escape from it", they groan and take the piss, but if you did want to forget about the world for an hour Air's sublime 'Moon Safari' would be the perfect holiday resort.

Released two weeks into 1998, it's already in the running for Album Of The Year. 'Moon Safari' is impossibly beautiful, tripping the light fantastic across a sin-dappled surface of strings, guitars, keyboards and any other instrument the multi-talented pair choose to turn their hand to, with a little help from American vocalist Beth Hirsch and 60s French Moog guru Jean-Jacques Perrey. And there's not a sampler in sight either.

"We like to have fun," explains Nicolas, "and it is really difficult for us to have fun when we are behind a computer. When I am behind a computer I feel like I am working in a bank and when I am behind a piano I feel like a musician. Maybe one day we'll be able to make music without any instruments but from your head and every time you think of a sound there will be a machine to make that sound."

Also among the romantic reveries familiar to fans of their singles on Source and MoWax are jaunty excursions into quirky, Kraftwerky electronic pop like 'Kelly Watch The Stars', a hormonal tribute to their favourite Charlie's Angel ("She is the most beautiful woman in the world, we hope one day she will sing with us"), and forthcoming single 'Sexy Boy', a wry jab at Paris' fashion victims.

"We have a story for each song," Nicolas elaborates. "If I want to talk about something I write a song."

"When you are playing a melody on the piano there is a word behind every note," JB chimes in. "You have only to find the words behind the notes."

With this in mind, Nicolas reckons that the moon is the perfect metaphor for Air's blend of nostalgia and futurism. "The moon is here for so long now and we still want to go there," he muses. "It's like music. We asked Virgin to shoot the video on the moon but they considered the budget and it was too expensive," he deadpans.

To record 'Moon Safari', Air retreated with their array of vintage instruments to a cottage in the woods of Versailles, the town where the duo grew up and where Nicolas developed an early infatuation with the Beatles while watching the televised tributes after John Lennon was shot: "The Beatles were the best band in the world," he enthuses, "their music is a mini universe."

Playing in an indie band called Orange with future house producer Alex Gopher came to nothing. Nicolas became an architect while Jean-Benoit went off to teach maths.

"I waited so many years to make a record because I was afraid to do something bad so I didn't want to do anything," says Nicolas, explaining their late bloom. "I was very unhappy in my life because of that so a lot of people pushed me to do music and now our lives have changed. It's not the money or the success but now we're doing what we were made for."

'Moon Safari" is glorious proof that the duo have found their calling. Warm, witty and wistful, it's as essential as, well, air. Inhale.