Premiers Symptomes

NME Review

Doubtless all too aware that Air are currently busying their little fluffy clouded heads with the soundtrack for the first film to be directed by Sofia Coppola - and therefore unlikely to deliver the follow-up to 'Moon Safari' until 2001 - here's the ruse by which Virgin hope to maintain the primacy of their wildly successful Gallic investment.

'Premiers Symptomes' is the group's debut EP (itself a compilation of early singles and B-sides), first released in 1997 but previously available in the UK only via import, with a couple of extra tracks bunged on to convince hardcore punters who will most likely already have this stuff that they need to buy it again, not to mention ensuring the record qualifies for the album charts. Cynical, moi? Mais, bien sur, kids, and pourquoi non? It's a dirty world out there.

Of course, the world and its prevailing dirtiness is what inspired Air in the first place. Escape to a synthetic paradise filled with comforting totems of a kinder past was the kernel of 'Moon Safari', and for all its inherent conservatism few who have ever felt the tug of pure pop could deny the brilliance of Air's design and execution. Hearing 'Premiers Symptomes' now, out of date and context, proves merely that Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicholas Godin had all the requisite elements for their subsequent breakthrough in place by late-1995, from whence the opening 'Modulor Mix' dates. And hey, it still sounds great, too, a poised exercise in vacuum-packed dub, underpinned by a single note guitar riff and horns from God's lounge. A minor landmark in chilled brinkmanship, small wonder it was included on Mo'Wax's 'Headz 2' collection...

So, one of the best tracks is available elsewhere! Fear not, Air-heads, for it can be argued that 'Premiers Symptomes' actually evinces a purer distillation of the Air aesthetic than 'Moon Safari'. Sparer arrangements, virtually no vocals save for the vocoderised murmurs of 'Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi', and an unflappable disinclination to get a move on to anywhere in particular make this a bijou toker's treat. Or they would, were it not for the previously unreleased purchase-inducements, 'Californie' and the 'Gordini' mix of Alex Gopher's 'Brakes On', both clunking chemical funk-outs that merely detract from the original artefact's satisfying flow.

Nit-picking this may be, but with such essentially exploitative releases as this, the truth lies in the small print. Why not simply reissue 'Premiers Symptomes' as was? Because the world is a dirty place, and sometimes the Air that we breathe just isn't enough to get by.