Air, 'Pocket Symphony' (Astralwerks)

Pocket Symphony
Critical Mass
Label: astralwerks

by Barry Walters

While retaining the meticulous sonics of Beck/Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich, Air's Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel eliminate almost all percussion from their fourth album, streamlining the music's already intimate Gallic lushness and plaintive melodicism. The resulting tunes occupy a hushed netherworld between classical minimalists like Erik Satie and Timbaland (without the beats). And while the subtly unsettling ambience lacks the fireworks of their 1998 debut, Moon Safari, the breathtaking peak, "One Hell of a Party," featuring ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker aching bittersweetly over traditional Japanese string instruments (played by Godin), menaces in miniature.

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