erasing clouds

Air, Talkie Walkie

reviewed by dave heaton

The appeal of Air's 1998 debut Moon Safari came chiefly through how stylish and dreamy the music sounded. Songs like "Sexy Boy" and "Kelly Watch the Stars" were sleek and pleasurable distillations of atmospheric electronics and goofy yet romantic pop songs. Their new album Talkie Walkie, due out in January of next year, takes that same style and mellows it out further; these songs all sound like Moon Safari in slow motion, not as bouncy and even hazier. Easy listening for the future.

Talkie Walkie has that "we're young and in love with everything" feeling about it, as well as a futuristic quiet-storm vibe; it's a starry-eyed newborn and a suave James Bond-type. There's also a world-travelling mood that suits both (call it "Pop Music for Airports," if you will). They're in love with a "Cherry Blossom Girl" there, "Surfing on a Rocket" there. They're "universal travelers," as one song puts it, yet you can't help but wonder if they're doing most of their globe-trotting within their own minds. Songs like "Run" lyrically embody that theme of being on the move, yet they make you feel like you're caught in a lovely but static cloud of synthesizers and whispers.

Talkie Walkie's chief asset is beauty, yet there's also a mysterious feeling to everything, not to mention the sense that the duo are scientists of sound, playing around with textures and noises to see what they get. The instrumental "Mike Mills" sounds like spacemen from the future covering some classical composition from the Baroque era, while "Alpha Beta Gaga," also an instrumental, is a surreal sonic cartoon that feels at once like the score to a Western, a spy movie and a TV sitcom about the military, while of course sounding completely unreal and weird. And throughout the album instruments emerge from out of nowhere, feeling like they jumped over from another album (for example, the banjo in the midst of the electro haunted house that is "Biological"). With Talkie Walkie Air once again prove to be both experts at crafting atmosphere, plus enigmatic pop stars with a style of their own. Talkie Walkie has madcap eccentricity, charm, and sweeping beauty; it's a pleasure and a puzzle.

Issue 18, December 2003

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