They have made one of the albums of the year. Now they are embarking on what could well be one of the tours of the year. Jim Carroll tracks the rise and rise of this year's hip French export and asks Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin what they feel is in the Air tonight.
Space, the final frontier. Like an extra-terrestrial wild west which has yet to be charted never mind tamed, we can look but we cannot touch. We thought we could get from here to there via jet-packs and transport shuttles which looked like a Lexus customised by Miyake, but it just seems to get further and further away with every passing day. Yet we continue to look and think and dream and wonder....
For Air, space is not the final frontier. It's an actual environment. Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin create music which is the ideal soundtrack for that looking and thinking and dreaming and wondering. It's not new, but then again neither are our perceptions of space. They remain locked in an never-ending Sixties loop of airbrushed bumps, floating atmospherics and an oscillating hound called Laika.
Air's designs are foxy, sweet and delicate. Grand washes of sound and ambience and emotion. Beats that tease and tantalise without succumbing to a standard beat surrender. Music which oozes charm and a louche lust for a different sort of life. Air, you see, just can't help acting on impulse.
In person, they're an odd double-bill. Former mathematician Jean-Benoit is intense, alert and prone to giving thoughtful answers with a grin. Former architect Nicolas is a more abrasive foil and looks remarkably like one of the Frank & Walters. You feel that while they may be tiring of talking about "Moon Safari", they also want to correct some misunderstandings.
You see, much has been said and written about their debut album. Terms like "easy-listening nirvana", "futuristic lounge music" and "the best thing out of France since Daft Punk" have been tossed towards the feet of this elegant, cultured, cultivated pair. Yet nothing which has been said or written comes close to echoing the variety of emotions "Moon Safari" continues to elicit from the listener. Deeply, madly, truly, it's an album which refuses to stay in any one box and prefers instead to provide the colours for your daydreams about late nights on Mars.
For Air, the current attention is a puzzle in many ways. They did not see this coming. In fact, they may not want this to come.
This maxim should be kept in mind now that Air have decided to do some live shows. Their appearance on Later With Jools Holland was one thing. These live jousts are something quite different. Air even have to question the very reason why they should tour at all, a very Air moment.
Not that we want Air to be Kiss, the make-up would certainly not suit. And Air, you feel, have a mellow agenda of their own.
The new-school space cowboys are about to head into the sunset and we all want to go there with them.