Air - Talkie Walkie

Mike Mantin 01/02/2004

Rating: 4/5

Two foreigners playing synths with the equaliser set to kitten-soft often repels the majority of the British public. Not so in 1998, when Air released their debut album Moon Safari. The world was hypnotised: it was alluringly easy to listen to but still revealed (and reveals) secrets with every listen. Moon Safari became the standard for dinner parties with bite, and one fifth of the CD collections of people who say "I like a bit of everything, really." It rocked the world, albeit very gently.

Three years, much acclaim and several awards later came the poorly-received follow-up, 10000 Hz Legend which coldly put aside the winning formula in favour of bleeps and experimentalism, and Air disappeared for a while and became The Moon Safari Band. Until now, that is. Talkie Walkie marks a return to said formula: all dreamy beats and sentimental lyrics. It's benefited from co-producer Nigel Godrich's magic fingers: the sound is more pure, certainly better than Moon Safari. At times (such as the gorgeous Run) it sounds like a lighter version of Godrich's misunderstood masterpiece, Radiohead's Kid A, and that's no bad thing.

Every song is cooked to perfection: the obligatory instrumentals (Mike Mills and Alone In Kyoto from the Lost In Translation Soundtrack) charmingly glide around for a few minutes then leave without a trace, gearing you up for the next love song. Air themselves did the vocals this time rather than rely on an all-star cast, and their singing talents are surprisingly sharp; maybe they didn't need that vocoder after all. By the time Alone In Kyoto breaths its final sigh, all the Air copyists (Zero 7, we're looking at you) will have escaped the nastiest corner of your mind and The Moon Safari Band will have restored your faith in Electronic (and possibly French) music.