by Alison Hird
Article published on the 2010-01-22 Latest update 2010-01-23 12:20 TU
Electro wizards Air need no introduction. France’s most successful electro-pop band have sold 5.5 million copies of their four albums to date and their latest, Love 2, is sure to swell the figures.
Ten years after their debut and now cult album Moon Safari, Air chose to go it alone for their latest opus, retreating to their very own Atlas studios in Paris. There they improvised on retro synthesisers and vintage vocoders as well sampling the many instruments they play. Gone is producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck) and recent collaborations with the likes of Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.
“We wanted to find ourselves again,” says JB Dunckel. And to go faster, be more spontaneous.
There is indeed a more live “edge” to the album, helped by Joey Waronker’s drumming throughout. The only other musician on the album, Godin says his “cool, loose” sound from the Royal Canyon LA was perfect for the duo.
Air say they wanted to make an uptempo album, and if not exactly jolly, saw it as a love-induced antidote to these gloomy times.
'Do the Joy' firmly invites us to cheer up, have sex, that kind of thing. 'Bee a Bee' is foot-tapping frenzied while evoking the fragility of our honey-making pollinating friends. The New York Post named it second best single of 2009.
Overall the album has more groove than their previous fare, with traces of Pink Floyd on tracks like 'Tropical Disease' and the breathy, ethereal 'So light is her footfall' - a hymn to that perfect, unreachable woman. The title is a reference to Oscar Wilde and Godin says you can sense the mist rising over London.
It's just one of many images the album invites you to conjure. 'Eat my beat' got me thinking car chase, 'African Velvet (which has a clear afrobeat feel) is all heat and jungle.
No surprise there. Air are big film buffs. They made the soundtrack to Sophia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides and are now working on one for Sam Garbarski’s next film adapted from a manga cartoon by Japanese artist Jiro Taniguchi.
“We always think [of] our life as a big movie” says Godin, “and music is the soundtrack of our life”.
Sourya, four lads from the Paris suburbs, are embarking on the first few scenes of theirs but the rushes are looking good. Their first studio album Dawdlewalk sat around for a couple of years but Massive Central indie label had the guts to pick it up.
“Other labels said they liked the stuff but didn’t know where to put us” says singer songwriter and band founder Sourya Voravong, who is known as Sou.
It’s true the lads are by turns electronic and acoustic, dreamily romantic and club it til you drop, organic and robotic.
The lyrics are fairly sombre: “selling your soul” in 'The ballad of star gigolo' “becoming a robot to ensure immortality” in 'Anatomy domine' “suffering from Stockholm syndrome” in 'Stockholm 73'. The music indulges you in those melancholy moments and then gets you wanting to dance.
“Our music is like you can cry or dance on it” jokes Sou. “We’re trying to bring emotion to the audience, it’s like you want something that reminds you of something bad or sad and then we bring the beat”.
Beats that are gradually making them a dancefloor sensation. But the emotion comes largely from his rich, wide-ranging voice, capable both of Tom Yorke-like falsettos and hovering comfortably down at the bass.
While they’re still easing their way into the French music scene, Sourya have had some success in the UK thanks to veteran British record producer Alan McGee, who discovered Oasis and Primal Scream. When, in the Guardian newspaper, he compared Sou’s melodic genius to a combination of Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell and Thomas Bangalter from Daftpunk, it was sure to generate a buzz. They got concert dates in the UK last year as a result.
“We learnt a lot” says Julien, who plays synthesisers and looks after programming. They played Nintendo DS on stage: lighter and more practical than a guitar when travelling.
“There’s a programme that imitates an old synthesiser from the 70's called Korg MS-10 and for Nintendo it’s called Korg DS-10. You can create loads of loops.”
Still, for their current French tour they don’t have to be quite so pratical and the guitars - and organic touch - are back.
Love 2 (Aircheology / EMI/ Virgin). Air are currently on tour in Europe and North America
Dawdlewalk (Massive Central). Sourya tour dates in France (http://www.myspace.com/sourya)
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