Air | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I've never had much use for 70s kitsch, but somehow Air--the French duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel--has appropriated some of the era's most forgettable elements and put them back to work without resorting to revivalism. Although its debut album, Moon Safari (Source), is something of a letdown after the string of marvelous instrumental singles compiled on last year's EP Premiers Symptomes, it delivers a frothy dose of undeniable soft-focus pop pleasure. Air's earliest recordings subverted electronica's methodology to sculpt sumptuous, sometimes soulful dreamscapes; string samples, Burt Bacharach horns, gurgling synths, plangent melodies, and softly creeping rhythms combined in sound tracks to decadent imaginary films. The album, on the other hand, ditches most of the soul references in favor of hedonistic, if energetically restrained, hot-tub music. Godin and Dunckel have added guitar, singing, and tougher beats, within more familiar pop structures: tunes like the throbbing "Sexy Boy," replete with vocoderized vocals; the artificially sweetened "You Make It Easy" (with guest American vocalist Beth Hirsch); and the percolating porno track "New Star in the Sky" still luxuriate in their lack of bite, but the cloudlike formations of the older material have been cleaned up for a pop audience. At this point Air's still a guilty pleasure, but if the shift toward mainstream cheese continues, pretty soon it'll just be guilty of being another bad French band. Monday, 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mike Mills.

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