Air – ‘Moon Safari’

Having happily settled into my snug cottage fifty metres from the beach at Marazion overlooking St. Michael’s Mount, what I really needed was an album to complement the blissful, sleepy, laid-back mood my comfortable homestead gave me. Dark winter evenings in front of the log fire needed musical accompaniment. They needed some French invention. They needed the sublime Moon Safari by Air.

Since the late ‘80s the explosion of dance music into the mainstream had a minefield of sub-genres. I’d always had a soft spot for what I’m lazily going to call chill-out, but as usual you needed to find the good stuff, usually on a Café Del Mar compilation or something by D*Note, Nightmares On Wax or William Orbit. Now, Air were different. Electronic and most definitely ambient, soothingly jazzy, but above all these were great songs.

Dreamy and cinematic, the production was gorgeous, giving depth and soul to the vocoder, Mellotron plus myriad of synths and electric pianos. Opener La Femme D’Argent encapsulates that gorgeousness perfectly with Nicholas Godin’s bass playing the lead role. Soul is not a word I’d use to describe Sexy Boy. Kitsch, catchy and hit single would sum it up, but after too many listens I could do without it. All I Need and You Make It Easy feature Beth Hirsch on vocals; the former is pure bliss, absolute heaven, as seductively serene as it gets.

Kelly Watch The Stars was the band’s second hit single and I’d simply ditto Sexy Boy. For me, it was the album’s ability to sooth, to literally relax the mind and body that was its appeal. Kitsch for hit singles is fine, but give me the sumptuousness of Ce Matin La any day with its tranquil tuba and flickering strings and synths. Moon Safari completely won me over and was almost immediately followed by Air’s debut EP Premiers Symptômes released the previous year, as well as Alex Gopher and another French electro pioneer Étienne de Crécy aka Super Discount. For electro in the late ‘90s the French really had it going on.

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