Air – Moon Safari: A lunar adventure

This post is part of the countdown to Air’s fifth album, Pocket Symphony, which will be released March 6 in the U.S.

Moon Safari
moon safarimoon safarimoon safari

If Premiers Symptomes found our protagonists as the house band at “Le Casino dans la Lune,” then Moon Safari surely finds Air on its titular sojourn, casting off the confines of the lounge scene and setting off on a mission of exploration.

This, Air’s first album proper, launched the band’s career with spectacular fashion. It received nearly universal praise, debuted at number five on the U.K. charts and built a legion of die-hard fans “Air-heads?”. From its first moments, it is clear that Moon Safari is more adventurous than its predecessor. It still embraces the astro-pop sound of the 70s, but its scale captures much more grandeur. The rhythms have more funk, the melodies are complex and addictive, and the arrangements are layered into a dense and multifaceted pastiche of sophistication.

For nearly 25 minutes, through its first five songs, this record knocks out hit after hit, with each song ranking as five stars. The performance of that opening sequence is unmatched by any album in my iTunes library.

Powered by a mesmerizing bassline, La Femme d’Argent features sparkling synthesized melodies which quickly set the spaced out tone of the record. Sexy Boy follows with a pop formula that easily explains why the song was the album’s breakout single. Incidentally, that song, along with its b-side Jeanne, are the only instances of the [french band]’s use of French lyrics in their ten year history. Next up is All I Need, which brings the tempo down a notch, but the song is no less captivating for it. Kelly Watch the Stars picks up the pace for a fantastically fun aerospace romp that only has one sung line. Talisman then brings the house down with an ominous slow-building tension that battles with a powerful, sweeping string section.

After climaxing with Talisman, Moon Safari takes a turn toward the somber and contemplative. Whereas the first half of the album features some rather robust tracks, the second half turns decidedly low key. All in all, it’s still excellent, just not as breathtaking as the preceding songs. The only real sore spot on the record is You Make it Easy, a slow tempo love song with a few awkward transitions. Straying uncomfortably close to smooth jazz adult contemporary, the song earns the album’s only three star rating.

Redemption, however, comes in the form of Le Voyage de Penelope, Moon Safari’s finale. Featuring this incredibly dirty, distorted electronic melody, the song soars to new heights as the lunar adventure comes to an end.

Moon Safari is, without a doubt, a masterpiece, a perfect piece for cranking up and chilling out. It has been a personal favorite for nearly nine years now and it gets better with every listen. If you’re unfortunate enough to have not experienced it, here are a couple videos to get you started:

moon safari download at itunes

Kelly Watch the Stars:

Sexy Boy:

My Library

Air: Moon Safari (1998)
10 tracks (of 10)
Album Rating (average ): 4.5
Median Rating: 5
Mode Rating: 5
Signature Track: Talisman

Air – Premiers Symptomes: Like in a lounge on the Moon

Air [french band]’s first album in three years, Pocket Symphony, will be released in a handful of days. In preparation for that event, I thought it would be fun to take a trip through the French band’s back catalogue, starting with their earliest works, which range from the 1996 early singles to 1997’s debut album Premiers Symptomes.


Imagine it’s 1969 and your thoughts are aimed toward the future. Not your own personal future, but the future of mankind. Think thirty years or so, to that far off time known as 1999. In your mid-century mind, you picture the fantastic possibility that the frontier of human exploration lies beyond the Asteroid Belt and that people will be making regular trips into Earth orbit. You even think that the fringe of exotic vacations take place on the Moon, which is bustling with low-grav attractions. Swanky hotels, rover expeditions, high-jumping sports, perhaps a theme park and a casino (with blackjack of course).

In the evenings, after a day of enjoying all the leisure activities that the Moon has to offer, people gather in the Lunar Lounges to sip cocktails and make sophisticated conversation about how groovy it is to be on the Moon. As you picture all this, you hear an equally sophisticated music accompanying the chatter. In your head, it’s laid back and jazzy smooth with dreamy sparkling Mellotron melodies, which is of course the way music will sound in thirty years’ time…


That scene pretty much sums up the aura that surrounds Air’s early years, especially Premiers Symptomes. At just 5 songs and 27 minutes long, the record is short on length, but makes up for it by packing much groove. It’s nearly half an hour of perfectly sublime music. And the notion of being a spaced-out futuristic jazz ensemble on the Moon is epitomized with the album’s third song: Les Professionnels, which astute listeners will recognize as a proto-version of All I Need from Moon Safari.

Compared to the band’s later works, Premiers Symptomes’ songs are much simpler in form. There is less complex layering of sounds and the arrangements are more straight-forward. But it does a very good job of establishing Air’s distinct sound.

The 1999 re-release features two additional tracks Californie and Brakes On, which some people claim ruin the mood of the album. I can see their point, because those songs are as close to rock as Air has ever gotten and they do tend to take away from the disc’s ethereal atmosphere. But hey, it’s Air and despite being oddballs in the catalogue, those songs are pretty good. Brakes On, in particular, might make that late-60s futurist think, instead, of a discotheque on the Moon.

If you’re unfamiliar with Premiers Symptomes, check out the video for one its singles, Le soleil est pres de moi. It’s got nothing to do with the Moon, however:

Les Professionels

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
7.9 / 10

Air [french band]’s pocket preview: an online listening party

air headphones

If you happened to miss the listening party, you can get your own small preview from the album’s first single “Once Upon A Time,” which is available from the iTunes Store.

Alternately, you can pre-order Pocket Symphony from the iTunes Store and receive 2 bonus tracks (The Duelist and Crickets) plus a PDF of artwork.

Update March 6: Pocket Symphony has been released. Get it.


Today is the first public unveiling of Air [french band]’s new record, Pocket Symphony. It it the duo’s first release in the three year since the magnificent Talkie Walkie was set loose upon the world in early 2004. For fans of the post-modern, downtempo electronic wunderkinds, each new album is an eagerly awaited event.

While the album proper doesn’t hit the street for a few more weeks (March 6), the band has invited the entire internet to a listening party at the album’s website, on Feb 15 (that’s today). So head on over and give it a once through. You can sign up to receive the access password and to receive future updates. Or you can simply type in “play” and get straight to listening via streaming music.

The preview window also features simple comment posting and a Google Maps mash-up showing where other listeners are located.

As for the album itself, as I write this I’m five songs in and it’s everything an Air album should be: mellow, dreamy and complexly melodious.

air pocket symphony at itunes

air pocket symphony at amazon

a quixotic endeavor?

returned from florida today. a couple highlights: air’s moon safari. that record gets better everytime i listen to it, like a fine wine that improves with age, or how the fox theatre seems to keep getting cooler just by continuing to exist. every song on that album is a masterpiece.

then there was kish kash, the most recent (2003) basement jaxx album (hey isn’t it time for a new one?). when i first got this one, it took me a while to really get into it and i continue to think that it is drastically uneven in its quality, but, ‘good luck,’  ‘right here’s the spot’ and ‘plug it in’ are among the best tracks in the duo’s catalog. ‘plug it in’ manages to succeed in spite of the n*sync connection.


in tunequest news, i figured out how to use excel’s linear regression tools to calculate more precise trendlines.

tunequest graph 6/7/06

as you can see, the results aren’t pretty. this newly-accurate line predicts that i’ll have listened to 12,000 songs by the end of the year, about 2000 short of my goal. and, at the rate i’m going, i’m not weeding enough from my library; i’ll still be 500-1000 short. i guess all i can really do is re-double (quadruple?) my efforts again.

For a drive to Florida

It’s about a 350 mile drive from Atlanta to the florida panhandle (represent!) and it, without fail, rains in alabama every time. That’s not hyperbole; i’ve made the drive there and back 3-4 times a year for the past 4 years and literally, it rains at some point on I-85 or I-65.

as the skies went from downpour to sprinkles along the route to montgomery, my ipod provided a most suitable soundtrack: Saint etienne‘s b-side album fairfax high.

At this point, i don’t really remember how i stumbled upon the band, though i think i may have confused them with etienne de crecy from a remix of air’s ‘sexy boy.’ irregardless of the source, fairfax high was the first saint etienne album i heard (march 2000) and it impressed me enough that i was hooked.

i’ve always liked b-sides and b-side albums because of the new perspective they provide on a band. some of my favorite songs in many bands’ catalogs are b-sides, and saint etienne is no different. ‘hit the brakes’ and ‘hill street connection’ are both standout tracks from this collection.

Live Music Thursday!

One of the effects of loading the iPod alphabetically by album is that I’m getting a refresher course in live music. The tagging scheme I use for live performances looks like this: venue, city

Thus, all the shows are listed chronologically. As far as iTunes is concerned, each show is just an album that starts with a number.

Today found me listening to a 1995 Soul Coughing show in New York City, a completely rockin’ Toronto 2004 performance by Mouse on Mars who I’ve managed to see, twice. If you get the chance, go! and a 2001 show by Air [french band] in Los Angeles.

Also sandwiched in there was A Data Learn the Language, an uber-smooth postrock record by The Mercury Program. Good stuff that.