intraspace: the review lounge

Saturday, April 14, 2007

pocket symphony

'pocket symphony' by air

it is really is true that no matter how into downloading music you get, there is nothing like having an actual album in your hand. it is a concrete thing.

i was pleased to recently spend some music vouchers i got for my birthday on the new album from french band, air.

over the last ten years or so, air have become the undisputed kings of down tempo lounge electronic music - despite stiff competition from zero 7 (but air came first, so they win). i'll get straight to the point and say that i think 'pocket symphony' is their second best album ever (after 'moon safari'). their previous album 'talkie walkie' had moments of brilliance, but i think this new album is all up a better thing.

a feature of this album is a zen minimalist approach that they have garnered from japan, so the whole album has a slightly oriental feel (in a good way). the best indicator from 'talkie walkie' about the direction they would head for their new album was the track 'alone in kyoto', which was featured in the film 'lost in translation' (great film). so this new album is very mellow indeed - it floats along rather nicely.

guest vocalists on the album (which is, by the way, mainly instrumental) include jarvis cocker. i get the distinct feeling that jarvis is quite popular in france (there is a definite touch of the moulin rouge about him). i personally think he is a bit of tosser (excuse the term) but i'm grateful for his appearance on the album because he does a good job and his style blends rather nicely with air's music.

another advantage of having guest vocalists is that it means the air boys themselves stay away from the microphone. our bonne hommes nicolas godin and jean-benoît dunckel insist on singing in english and their lyrics often verge on out and out silliness. thankfully all their vocal work on 'pocket symphony' is subtle - except on the track 'once upon a time' (which i think may be the single). a sample of the lyrics from this track:

i'm a little boy, you're a little girl, once upon a time
i'm a little boy, you're a little girl, once upon a time
time's getting on
time's over now

i ask you?! this is the only track i now skip on the cd. but air fans have become accustomed to this feature of air. afterall, their first big single ever was 'sexy boy' - not a song of tremendous lyrical genius. i also think that air fans have come to accept that the band has always trod a fine line between cheesiness and brilliance. fortunately for us, they come down on the side of brilliance far more often.

in this day and age of digital music, downloads etc, i think that any album review should cover the cd packaging and any bonus content that ships with the cd. the artwork on 'pocket symphony' is superb - the photography features resin figurines of nicolas and jean-benoît in different locations. for a feel of the artwork visit

the cd features 'opendisc' technology. you can rip the tracks an unlimited amount (it's not copy-protected), but inserting the cd into your computer rom drive launches a portal that allows you to register your copy and then access exclusive content online. this content includes two rather nice bonus tracks (including another one featuring jarvis cocker) and video material. apparently new content will be added over time - so they say. so, there is good incentive for buying the cd rather than just downloading the tracks.

all up, an excellent album that is well worth buying.

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  • I'm in the downloaded a few tracks from it bracket! the opposite of your article - from that standpoint I liked about 5 tracks only... but didn't it give it the chance for anything more...

    By Blogger Jonathan and Penny, at 8:27 PM  

  • yeah, definitely think it is a grower. on my trip up the coast to kaiaua the other night in rain and wind i was able to listen to listen to it twice in a row - very nice.

    By Blogger andrew killick, at 12:23 PM  

  • "to listen to listen to it twice in a row"! an unintentionally cunning use of the language there.

    By Blogger andrew killick, at 12:24 PM  

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