Record Review by Adam McKibbin
The LateNightTales series—in which influential bands comb through their record collection and present the listening public with a selection of gems—is a few years too late to make a proper cultural impact, as the market is now crowded with iTunes Celebrity Playlists and press release-regurgitating mp3 blogs that are essentially Non-Celebrity Playlists.
Market saturation be damned, Air’s Nicolas Godin and JB Dunckel do it right, creating a mix that is ambitious in its drafting but extremely focused in its mood. So the listener gets some possibly neglected old-timers (Lee Hazlewood, Minnie Riperton, Scott Walker) along with some dangerously obvious modern mix tape kings (Elliott Smith) and queens (Cat Power). Best of all, right off the bat, Godin and Dunckel provide a shock to the system for anyone who, based on car commercials or a handful of biggest hits, thinks that The Cure and Black Sabbath were one-trick ponies. From The Cure, we get the oppressive, muted mood of “All Cats Are Grey,” with nary a trace of the euphoric melodies that lifted many of their iconic singles. Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” is an overlooked gem from Paranoid (scrunched, as it was, in a legendary opening foursome with “Iron Man,” “War Pigs” and “Paranoid). It’s a murky ballad that presents a strong case for the existence of marijuana flashbacks.
The theatrical ambience of Air’s mix is increased with Nino Rota’s “O’ Venezia Venaga Venusia.” The Band’s version of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” has always struck this reviewer as shitty hippie karaoke; others think it’s pastoral and angelic—presumably including Godin and Dunckel. It’s worth noting here that the duo’s liner notes add a whole extra level of enjoyment for the record; in the entry beneath The Band, Godin writes, “They look like men in the forest who cut wood.”
Georges Delerue provided film scores for the likes of Godard, Resnais, and, especially, Truffaut. His “Camille” is deliciously weighty, and is a lot of fun to have playing at high volumes when you’re expecting company. “Uh, is… everything alright?”
Alas, space precludes the analysis of every track to come, but Godin and Dunckel continue to keep the delicate mood aloft, and it’s a late night mood, to be sure. Tan Dun’s orchestral “For the World” is another cinematic highlight; on the opposite end of the spectrum, Jeff Alexander’s nearly naked “Come Wander With Me” is every bit as evocative. Lee Hazlewood’s good-natured “My Autumn’s Done Come” is especially touching given that the country crooner is now sadly at the end of his winter.
Air - Pocket Symphony
More by this writer:
Ghostly International (V/A) - Idol Tryouts Two
Lambchop - Damaged
Ellen Allien - Thrills
Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit