Published Jan 01, 2006Apparently, Air is sick of the single.
Then again, inseparable French duo Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel have always slaved for those rare pop anomalies: actual albums. From the verdant tenderness of Moon Safari to the sexually-charged lunacy of 10,000 Hz. Legend, any semblance of a standout track has been strictly coincidental.
But new disc Talkie Walkie takes this rejection of the single one step further; the boys are lonely, and the album is their plea for love.
"We are very romantic," an endearingly effusive Godin says. "Especially when you have an album like Moon Safari, which was very successful, and you can have sex with anyone on earth. After four or five years like that you just want to be loved and you want some tenderness. I want someone gentle with me and not a crazy hysterical girl that throws things in the room. French girls are crazy, man. Never date a French girl."
His words may not inspire the amatory desires that Talkie Walkie evinces, but that, perhaps, is why Godin makes music. Painfully beautiful music, in fact. Breezy, organic synths augment the pair's dulcet harmonies (Dunckel and Godin handle all vocal duties on the album) to create what's set to be the most intimate electro-pop album of the year. There's a noticeable aplomb to the seasoned band's approach, dropping the prog pretensions of 10,000 Hz. for the more flattering simplicity of Moon Safari, although Godin says the inspiration came from an entirely different source.
"We wanted to be very minimal. We were very impressed by the first solo album of John Lennon. It's just a piano, a drum, a bass and his voice and we wanted to do the electronic version of that."
The reification of this sparseness may be thanks to producer Nigel Godrich, who insisted the band sing all parts on Talkie Walkie. However, Godrich wasn't present for the recording sessions in Godin's apartment, instead adding post-production in L.A. Another key collaborator was Michel Colombier, who has arranged strings for everybody from Air exemplar Serge Gainsbourg to Madonna.
Godin explains that this revolving door of inspiration and collaboration is essential to Air's creative process. And yes, he mentions women again.
"We get very bored very fast. That is my problem with women. So we have the same problem in music. We have to change equipment all of the time, we have to change styles all the time. JB and I are the only ones that stick together all of the time, everybody else around us is changing."
And change is good. Especially, Godin says, as you age. Both he and JB began their careers as indie kids heavily influenced by punk. They made some "horrible noise" around Paris in their formative years but claim that the vociferous impetus has faded with age.
"I think when you're a teenager, you just want to put a guitar in the amp and make some noise. I think it's healthy to do that. But at 30 years old, it's not very healthy. It's time to grow up, you know. Except when you are the Rock. You know, someone like Iggy Pop or Keith Richards, these guys are the Rock. But when you're 30 years old, it's time to be a man. It's time to take on your responsibilities."
Creating their third full-length offering hasn't been the duo's sole ambition. Godin believes that the music industry is plagued with artistic apathy and says that for Air, "40 minutes of music every two years isn't enough." In just the past couple of years the band has created Talkie Walkie, produced the music for a French ballet called Near Life Experience, as well as providing over an hour of new material to Italian author Alessandro Baricco. The writer used the music to "perform" his book City in historic theatres throughout Rome.
Not too much of a stretch when you consider that Air supplied the soundtrack to Sophia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides. ("Alone in Kyoto," the closing track on Talkie Walkie, also features in the score to Coppola's latest film Lost in Translation, which was overseen by sometime Air drummer Brian Reitzell.) The link between cinema and music is so entrenched in French culture that Godin feels scoring films is essential to achieving success in France.
"You know, when we did Moon Safari in France we had absolutely no credibility, and then we did The Virgin Suicides and people got more of an interest out of it because here cinema is much more important than music. People have the shittiest taste in music here, that's why all of the bands in France are horrible, and the music we do, nobody understands it."