Air Talkie Walkie Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

All Gallic cool mixed with naïve whimsy. A bit like Francoise Hardy in the 25th century.

Chris Jones 2002

Five years on from the epoch-defining Moon Safari, les garcons seem to have returned to pastures old. A strange concept considering that they've made a career out of electronic retro-futurism. Yet, when you consider that the aforementioned album became almost the dictionary definition of incidental TV music (and cannot now be listened to without subconscious visions of pucker dishes by Jamie Oliver or another middle-class garden designed by Diamuid Gavin), it was wise to take time to return to what they do best. The intervening years being filled with prog concept albums (10,000Hz Legend), soundtracks (Virgin Suicides) or high-brow collaborations (City Reading), is this full-circle for Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, or is there more to Talkie Walkie than meets the eye?

Certainly the requisite elements needed to make it a music researcher's dream are here as before. Gently plucked acoustics cascade underneath bubbling analogue confections, while the strangely asexual vocals (entirely provided by the duo this time) murmur vaguely about space travel (''Surfin' on a Rocket''), sexual science (''Biological''), modern love (''Venus'') and cherry blossom girls (err...''Cherry Blossom Girl''), whatever they are. But ultimately this is not Moon Safari 2.

The clues are in the detail: just check out the whistling on "Alpha Beta Gaga"! There's still an element of collaboration; with co-producer Nigel Godrich supplying an extra sheen of glossy modern electronica and strings by Serge Gainsbourg's arranger Michel Colombier. Of course the latter choice makes perfect sense when you consider that 50 percent of Air's appeal is their very knowing faux-cheesiness. All Gallic cool mixed with naïve whimsy. A bit like Francoise Hardy in the 25th century. They must be huge in Japan, and indeed this album often comes close to sounding very much like that country's very own science fiction pop maestro, Cornelius; especially on ''Another Day'', ''Alone in Kyoto'' or ''Biological'' (whose quaint banjos also bring to mind Japanese ethno-electronicists World Standard)

But let's not forget the beautiful tunes. These are what stop Talkie Walkie (and its predecessors) from being just dinner party music for stoners. Starting with the minimum of bleeps and beats each track takes its time to build into swooningly sumptuous melodies. Suddenly you find yourself genuinely moved. Even the charming Bach-lite of ''Mike Mills'' (and how many other tracks named after bass players do you know?) takes what could have been something approaching Tubular Bells, and turns it on its head by luxuriating in the innocent pleasure of music; pure and simple. Formidable...

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