Preview – Jean-Benoît Dunckel & Jonathan Fitoussi

I thought for a moment that Air were back with a proper new album, but apparently not – this is a collaboration between Jean-Benoît Dunckel (Darkel) and Jonathan Fitoussi, and is called Mirages:

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Artist of the Week – Air

Time now for another artist of the week, plucked straight out of the archives. As always, apologies in advance if any of this is plagiarised, or if it contains any inaccuracies.

Air are Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin, from Versailles. Together with Étienne de Crécy and Alex Gopher, who would both go on to carve out musical careers for themselves, they started making music in the early 1990s. The first Air single Modular Mix was released late in 1995, and within very little time they were a huge underground act in France, and were carving a name out for themselves in the UK as well. The British release of Modular Mix peaked at number 177 in 1996.

Their first proper studio album Moon Safari was released in 1998, and, with the help of hits such as Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch the Stars, catapulted them into the top end of the UK charts.

After spending the following year touring, they returned at the start of 2000 with the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola‘s The Virgin Suicides, which gave them their third hit album and their fourth UK top 75 single with the beautiful Playground Love.

The second studio album 10,000 Hz Legend was released in 2001, and sadly has come to be seen as a bit of a mistake. It ditched the pure electronic sounds and turned instead to more traditional rock sounds, featuring various guest artists including Beck. However, it was still a substantial hit in the UK, and its remix companion Everybody Hertz also scraped onto the charts.

Last year saw the release of possibly their most bizarre project to date, an audio book entitled City Reading, and featuring their music, accompanying Alessandro Baricco‘s surreal stories. A very entertaining idea, but of course, not that easy to listen to!

Their most recent album Talkie Walkie was released in January this year, and the only single to be released so far in the UK is Alpha Beta Gaga, from the Orange adverts, which was a minor hit. The album is absolutely stunning, though, and features several fantastic tracks. As well as potentially huge singles such as Cherry Blossom Girl and Another Day, there’s another soundtrack piece from Sofia Coppola‘s latest film Lost in Translation, and many more great tracks.

Tomorrow’s World – Tomorrow’s World

French band Air seem to be singularly bad at marketing – it always comes as something of a surprise when they release something new, and in particular their side projects always seem to just appear out of nowhere.

So it was with Tomorrow’s World, the second side project for Jean-Benoît Dunckel, this time working with vocalist Lou Hayter of New Young Pony Club. The eponymous album appeared on the shelves early in 2013, and despite being largely forgotten by the public at large, it does have some merit.

That isn’t, perhaps, too obvious from the offing – the first track is the entirely forgettable A Heart That Beats for Me. You can certainly hear the sound of recent Air on here – the spectre of Le Voyage dans la Lune (reviewed here) is very much in attendance. Which is very much a good thing – the obscure twirly sounds Dunckel has managed to get out of his vintage synthesisers is entirely welcome.

Sometimes, the songs are there too, and the tracks positively shine – Think of Me and Drive are very pleasant indeed, although perhaps no more than that. But then, four tracks in, the lovely Pleurer et Chanter turns up unannounced. Beneath the slightly melancholic melody lies some warped instrumentation in the style of Le Voyage dans la Lune, making for a really rather beautiful combination. It also boasts a quite brilliant ending. Seemingly Tomorrow’s World have a few punches to pack when you’re not expecting it.

So Long My Love is a little more skippable, but Don’t Let Them Bring You Down is a total return to form. For the most part, it lacks the slightly manic experimental electronic noises which have been so key a part of the album up to this point, but it does have an extremely sweet melody and gentle flanged piano backing, which makes for a really lovely sound.

Metropolis too is incredibly sweet, a song about love in a big city. But I think my favourite track on the album is You Taste Sweeter, which wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on Air‘s debut album Moon Safari (1998) – it really is that good. The electronic backing has gone a bit bonkers again, and the lyrics are somewhat lacking this time, but there’s still something rather wonderful about the way everything comes together.

By the time Catch Me turns up with a slightly rotten electronic bass sound and a whole load of LFO on the backing, the album is nearly over already. This track has a great vocal style, which is very reminiscent of Air‘s Run (from Talkie Walkie, 2004, reviewed here), and is a lot of fun to listen to.

Final tracks Life on Earth and Inside are less noteworthy, but still very enjoyable to listen to. Even if the drums on the former are just a little reminiscent of Flight of the ConchordsInner City Pressure. But it’s worth remembering how many albums make the mistake of piling up all the good tracks at the beginning – here they’re relatively uniformly spread, which is a rare treat.

So Tomorrow’s World may not be Air, but it’s a worthy side project, even if resisting the comparisons has proved impossible here. Anyway, it’s a lot better than Dunckel’s earlier effort Darkel (2006). It will be fun to see what he comes out with next – if he actually bothers telling anyone, that is.

You can find Tomorrow’s World at all major online retailers, such as Amazon.

Retro chart for stowaways – 3 March 2007

Early March 2007 saw us in the middle of a Client invasion, while they were still just about good. The top five singles:

  1. Client – Zerox Machine
  2. Client – Drive
  3. Faithless – Bombs
  4. Eric Prydz – Proper Education
  5. Client – Lights Go Out

… and the albums:

  1. Sarah Nixey – Sing, Memory
  2. Marsheaux – Peeka Boo
  3. Darkel – Darkel
  4. Faithless – To All New Arrivals
  5. Moby – Go: The Very Best of Moby