A trip to the moon is nothing new for Air, the French electronica duo. For over a decade, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel have immersed their music in retro Moog synthesizers and galactic themes (prior singles include “Kelly Watch the Stars” and “Surfing on a Rocket”) like a pair of dreamy astronomy enthusiasts. It’s perfect, then, that Air was commissioned to compose a modern soundtrack for the full-color restoration of Georges Melies’ “Le Voyage Dans la Lune” (1902), a pioneering artwork widely considered to be the first science fiction movie.
The crowning attraction of Air’s seventh album, titled after Melies’ film, is inevitably its connection to a work of incredible historical importance (see Martin Scorsese’s recent film, “Hugo”, for full emotional nostalgia), rather than its independent merits. In general, the best film soundtracks must both complimentary and absorbing: lifting a film’s mood without overriding its storyline. Luckily, Air is up to the challenge, as revealed by their mastery of featherlight ambiance of captivating beauty in past film soundtracks for “The Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation.”
The album’s single, “Seven Stars,” builds the anticipation of a rocket launch with rumbling drums and Victoria Legrand’s (of Beach House) swooning vocals — surely an ode to Melies’ famous still of the Moon’s face with a rocket crashed in its eye. The same breathless exploration permeates through “Cosmic Trip,” a meteor shower of crystalline blips. However, aside from other bright stars like these, half of the album is dimmed by lackluster transitions better for cinematic portent than compelling listening.
At best, Air’s symphonic space-pop is a fascinating alliance with Melies’ 110-year-old vision, a mind-bending alignment of past and present with futuristic imagination. But it’s slightly disappointing that it’s all the album will ever be: A specialty curio that supports, not transcends, Melies’ greater masterwork.
Read more and listen to the podcast review at The Daily Cal.
Image: Courtesy of EMI