About Air

If a certain robot-suited twosome represents French dance music’s boisterous, outgoing élan, Air epitomize the suave understatement running through France's electronic music scene. The duo’s Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel grew up not in Paris but in Versailles, just outside the French capital, which seems fitting: Their lush, downtempo synth-pop is often as opulent as Versailles’ royal gardens—teeming with color, texture, and lively, luxurious detail. They started out, in the mid-’90s, with a string of singles reflective of the era’s dubby, head-nodding mood music. But their debut album, 1998’s Moon Safari, introduced a velvety new spin on the sound, touched up with cheeky retro references like vocoders, organs, and theremin. Between the feathery acoustic guitars, flutes, and guest singer Beth Hirsch’s lilting coo, “All I Need” conjured the hazy look and feel of ’70s European softcore. One listener who realized that Air were scene-setters par excellence was director Sofia Coppola, who enlisted them to provide the soundtrack to her soft-focus tone poem of a suburban teenage tragedy, The Virgin Suicides, in 2000. In the years since, they have explored different permutations of mood music without ever abandoning the silky essence of their sound. 10 000 Hz Legend, from 2001, is comparatively stark and stripped down, with unadorned analog synths setting their vocal harmonies in vivid relief, to dizzying effect; 2012’s Le voyage dans la lune, meant as the soundtrack to Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film of the same name, is a love letter to the marvels of classic studio technology—the spring reverbs and solid-state gizmos that gave space-age pop its futurist zing. In between those extremes is 2004’s Talkie Walkie, which contains the fan favorites (and concert staples) “Cherry Blossom Girl,” “Surfing on a Rocket,” and “Alone in Kyoto,” capturing their sound at its warmest and most inviting—less haute couture than cozy, oversized sweater.

    Paris, France

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