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Electronic - Released January 16, 1998 | Parlophone (France)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Although electronica had its fair share of chillout classics prior to the debut of Air, the lion's share were either stark techno (Warp) or sample-laden trip-hop (Mo' Wax). But while Air had certainly bought records and gear based on the artists that had influenced them, they didn't just regurgitate (or sample) them; they learned from them, digesting their lessons in a way that gave them new paths to follow. They were musicians in a producer's world, and while no one could ever accuse their music of being danceable, it delivered the emotional power of great dance music even while pushing the barriers of what "electronica" could or should sound like. (Never again would Saint Etienne be the only band of a certain age to reveal their fondness for Burt Bacharach.) The Modulor EP had displayed astonishing powers of mood and texture, but it was Air's full-length debut, Moon Safari, that proved they could also write accessible pop songs like "Sexy Boy" and "Kelly Watch the Stars." But it wasn't all pop. The opener, "La Femme d'Argent," was an otherworldly beginning, with a slinky bassline evoking Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson and a slow glide through seven minutes of growing bliss (plus a wonderful keyboard solo). The vocoderized "Remember" relaunched a wave of robot pop that hadn't been heard in almost 20 years, and the solos for harmonica and French horn on "Ce Matin La" made the Bacharach comparisons direct. Unlike most electronica producers, Air had musical ideas that stretched beyond samplers or keyboards, and Moon Safari found those ideas wrapped up in music that was engaging, warm, and irresistible. © John Bush /TiVo

Electronic - Released January 26, 2004 | Parlophone (France)

Artistic development doesn't always improve an artist's work, as the members of Air discovered when their second album, 2001's 10,000 Hz Legend, disappointed fans and critics expecting another pop masterpiece to rank with their debut, Moon Safari. 10,000 Hz Legend buried the duo's clear melodic sense underneath an avalanche of rigid performances, claustrophobic productions, and a restless experimentalism that rarely allowed listeners to enjoy what they were hearing. Gone was the freshness evident on Moon Safari: the alien made familiar, the concept that electronic dance could be turned into a user-friendly medium, the illustration of simplicity and space as assets, not liabilities. Fortunately, Air learned from their mistakes -- or, at least, their limitations -- leading up to the recording of third album Talkie Walkie, and the happy result is a solid middle ground between both of their previous records. The features are kept to a minimum and the tracks are constructed to sound no more complex than they need to be, even though Air risk the assumption that Talkie Walkie is a simple album. While there's nothing present to compete with the plodding glory of "Sexy Boy," Talkie Walkie ultimately succeeds because of Dunckel and Godin's renewed contentment to produce the tracks they do better than any other -- ones with a surface prettiness but no great depth. (It's no mystery why they've been tapped for several scores.) Ironically, the one track here that shrugs off the simplicity of electronic pop is a track first heard in a film, "Alone in Kyoto," an impressionistic string piece originally composed for the Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation. © John Bush /TiVo

Film Soundtracks - Released February 25, 2000 | Aircheology


Ambient - Released February 28, 2007 | Aircheology


Electronic - Released May 28, 2001 | Parlophone (France)

Eager to prove their songwriting smarts and knowledge of traditionalist pop on their sophomore work, French band Air pulled back slightly from the milky synth pop of their 1998 debut, Moon Safari. 10,000 Hz Legend is a darker work, just as contemplative and unhurried as its predecessor, but part of a gradual move from drifting, almost pastoral melancholia to a downright post-modern helplessness in league with Radiohead. Air are still tremendously effective producers, and have actually expanded their palate with a surprising array of pop instrumentation (acoustic guitars, flutes, pianos, a harmonica, harps, and many strings) to file alongside the countless trilling synthesizers and machine sequencers. The two lead-off tracks, "Electronic Performers" and "How Does It Make You Feel," are breathtaking productions that exploit the same robot-weariness tendencies that made "Sexy Boy" (from Moon Safari) an alternative hit. Still, those detached retro-vocoder treatments sound so much more passé in 2001 than when the duo first tried them out in 1996. Jason Falkner and Beck, a pair of equally hardworking slacker-pop icons, appear (respectively) on the next two tracks, the tongue-in-cheek single "Radio #1" and an excellent morning-after jam named "The Vagabond." Again, the production is stellar, but these find Air stranded between art rock and pop, caught in the trap of trying to make great pop music yet never sounding particularly studied or concerned about it. Falkner pops up again on "Lucky and Unhappy" and "People in the City," a pair of album standouts that subvert any pop inclinations with a raft of bridges and breakdowns among the layers of production. "Wonder Milky Bitch" is another precisely studied track, a haze of lunar-desert synth pop directly evocative of country-pop classicist Lee Hazlewood, and "Radian" brings Air back to the instrumental textures of their early work. Fans and involved listeners are definitely rewarded with increased dividends after multiple listens, but even they may wish for an album that harked back to the simpler days of the Premiers Symptomes EP and Moon Safari. © John Bush /TiVo

Electronic - Released August 24, 1999 | Parlophone (France)

It's usually just the collectors and obsessed fans that contend a band's first few singles are really their best work, far better than the material that ends up on their first album. With the French band Air, the collectors may just be right for once. Premiers Symptomes, a five-track EP boosted up to seven tracks for its eventual American issue on Astralwerks, features some of the most gorgeous moments in the duo's discography -- no small task considering the gems included on their full-length debut, 1998's Moon Safari. Almost completely instrumental (except for the surprisingly smooth robot croon on "Le Soleil est Pres de Moi"), Premiers Symptomes offers a half-dozen tracks of beautiful, deliciously downtempo synth-pop. It's far more than just a compilation of substandard early material that works best for collectors, it takes its place right next to Moon Safari as another highlight of French electronica. © John Bush /TiVo

Ambient - Released October 5, 2009 | Aircheology


Ambient - Released February 6, 2012 | Aircheology


Electronic - Released October 4, 2005 | Late Night Tales


Electronic - Released June 15, 2015 | Parlophone (France)


Electronic - Released May 23, 2008 | Parlophone (France)


Electronic - Released July 17, 2020 | Golden Tbilisi


Electronic - Released February 18, 2002 | Parlophone France

The first full-length collection of Air remixes focuses solely on tracks from their sophomore 10,000 Hz Legend album, and only three individual songs at that. Highlights come from the "Don't Be Light" remixes, unsurprising since four of the seven versions are of that one song. It's worked over well by a pair of eccentrics: Neptunes from hip-hop and Mr. Oizo from electronica. The Hacker contributes a solid up-tempo electro version of the same song and newcomer Jack Lahana offers up a new-school funk reworking of "People in the City." Everybody Hertz is really a poor release, though -- surprising for an act so committed to quality control. © John Bush /TiVo

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released July 8, 2019 | Trap


Electronic - Released October 4, 2005 | Late Night Tales


Dance - Released March 8, 2019 | World Of Dance|Latin Company


House - Released March 29, 2003 | Aircheology


Rock - Released January 1, 1971 | Rhino Atlantic


Jazz - Released June 6, 1979 | Legacy Recordings

Recorded for RCA in 1979, the vanguard trio Air set out to explore its jazz roots. In fact, not only the trio's jazz roots, but everybody's right back to Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton as they were inventing a music that would tear up the streets of New Orleans and later change the world. Interestingly, since most of the music here -- all written by the aforementioned except for one tune -- was composed by pianists and is widely regarded as piano music, Air's exploration entirely struck the piano from the conversation. Reedman Henry Threadgill, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall turned the ragtime music of the fathers inside out and created an exploratory reinsertion of it into the avant-garde of the late '70s. Jelly Roll's "Buddy Bolden's Blues" becomes a blues from another century in the melodic universe of Threadgill, who doesn't give a damn about changes as much as he does stretching the harmonics of the blues idiom into other musics entirely. And in the familiar "King Porter Stomp," also by Morton, Threadgill challenges McCall, who quadruples the time so Henry and Fred can stop up the middle eight with some weird angular intervals where arpeggiated harmony and modal striation become one and the same thing. Finally, on Joplin's "Weeping Willow Rag," the band moves through the changes and then undermines them, turning them inside out as if this were really a party tune from somewhere that willow trees didn't exist or had already disappeared into some toxic twilight. Here are the joyous blues, the raucous blues, the rip 'em up and then send 'em home blues trapped in a color palette so rich and so varied it's difficult to find only one or two textures to fit them inside. Through it all, this remains the album most Air fans love most, precisely because of all the joy and irreverence in the proceedings, which didn't update the old music, but brought it into focus for the revolutionary improvisational template that it is. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Ambient - Released February 19, 2007 | Aircheology