It has been stated and proven that Air is a cinematic band. Whether it be by themselves, with the help of guest vocals (Beck anyone?), either of the Coppola kids or the indie-tastic Mike Mills, this French duo have consistently put out innovative electronic gems since the mid ’90s. Their latest, Pocket Symphony, is no let down and picks up right where they left off in ’04.
If you really want the full effect of this album you must go back three years to the final track of Talkie Walkie. “Alone In Kyoto” is the father of Pocket Symphony, begetting a wonderful LP to soundtrack your introspection. As that track fades out, bring in the opener here, “Space Maker” and all of a sudden you’re off in a film of your own, watching main titles wipe across your line of sight. In fact, throughout the entirety of the album the urge to edit your surroundings to the music won’t let up. “Left Bank” will be your mid-afternoon drive home; “Photograph” will be your slow-motion trip through a hazy club, making eye contact with a mysterious woman in the corner. “Mer Du Japon” plays as you hit a neon-lit midnight dance club, and Jarvis Cocker convincingly narrates your staggered steps through the tattered remains of a post-partied apartment (and the subsequent drunken crash in bed) on “One Hell Of A Party.”
Through all of your mental framing and scripting though, you’ll still never lose sight of the fact that Air compose solid electro-jazz. “Lost Message,” “Mayfair Song,” and “Redhead Girl” all bear the duo’s familiar stamp and seem reminiscent of their breakout release, Moon Safari. There is thankfully a new sound to the album as well, by way of new instrumental experimentation. Lead single “Once Upon A Time” showcases the use of the Shamisen, a traditional Japanese instrument. Also in use is the Koto (a floor harp), though picking out these instruments through the synthesized textures proves difficult at times.
By stepping in and out of conventions the boys of Air are continuing to satisfy, and they prove here that Pocket Symphony is just as its name implies, a thickly textured gem that can accompany you anywhere. Though if you really want to experience the symphony, take it out of your pocket, sit back and throw on some headphones. Just make sure you set aside an hour, because you’re not going to want to take them off.