Air have retained their trademark dream-pop sound, though they have added a few interesting new elements to the mix.
Whilst this writer thoroughly enjoyed 10,000Hz Legend and Talkie Walkie, there's no doubt that Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel have had to contend with criticism from certain quarters that they've never quite matched the brilliance of their landmark early albums, Moon Safari and The Virgin Suicides soundtrack. Pocket Symphony is probably not going to convince the doubters either, but it still contains more than its fair share of inspired moments.
Broadly speaking, Air have retained their trademark dream-pop sound, although they have added a few interesting new elements to the mix. In particular, the duo have been looking towards the Orient, with Godin spending a year learning Far Eastern classical instruments the koto and shamisen.
These influences are used most effectively on the album's best track, 'One Hell Of A Party'. Featuring a guest vocal performance from Jarvis Cocker, who intones a characteristically sharp lyric concerning a hopelessly broken social scene ("This was one hell of a party/But this morning after's killing me"), the song's quietly chilling mood is the equal of anything on Jarvis' superb solo debut.
Another guest vocalist, Neil Hannon, chips in with a wonderfully delicate vocal performance on the hypnotic 'Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping', which plays like The Cure's 'Lullaby' reworked by Stereolab. There are also impressive rhythmic contributions throughout from Joey Waronker (sometime Beck, REM and Smashing Pumpkins drummer) and Tony Allen (the Fela Kuti rhythmatist, as opposed to the Foster & Allen singer).
Other highlights include the bewitching instrumentals 'Mayfair Song', 'Lost Message' and 'Night Sight', as well as the beautiful 'Redhead Girl'. Unfortunately, tracks like 'Left Bank' and 'Photograph' are slightly dull Air-by-numbers, and feature some alarmingly schmaltzy lyrics ("The angels cry to have your photograph" indeed). Nonetheless, for my money, there still isn't another band who do otherworldly 4am ambience quite like Air.
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