09 February 2012

Voyages to the Moon

As I walked down O'Connell Street last Saturday night I passed through a bizarre musical juxtaposition, outside Penny's on the GPO side of the street were a small but enthusiastic group of Hare Krishnas, doing their chanty-chanty thing (technically the Maha Mantra, through which they attempt to elevate themselves and all those in earshot to a higher state of consciousness, which is rather nice of them). Across the road, spilling forth from the external speakers gracing the walls of Clery's Department store, came the soothing tones of Air (specifically La Femme D'Argent from Moon Safari, through which they were attempting to penetrate my subconscious mind and make me more susceptible to buying their window-displayed consumables, which wasn't very nice of them at all really).

For the briefest of moments the two merged and my mind was indeed lifted to a higher state of consumable conciseness, simultaneously freed from the burdens of the material world and primed to fill this gap with even more material burdens and then, Coleridge-style, my moment of idyllic calm was shattered, not by a passing salesperson knocking on my door but by the realisation that a once loved album had become that passing salesperson.

1998 saw the release of two down-tempo albums that shaped much of my lazy Sunday afternoon listening habits for years to come, Austrian duo Kruder & Dorfmeister's sublime The K&D Sessions came out in August, but for me much of the year belonged to Air's Moon Safari with the deliriously squlechy sounds of Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch the Stars, and the gorgeous deep enveloping sound of the omnipresent Moog was no doubt a factor in my own acquisition of a Voyager some years later.

As I stood on O'Connell Street what depressed me most was the sudden feeling of age that came with the reduction of a much-loved memory to a muzak-esque elevator tune of commercialism. Other albums of the era, Moby's 1999 Play and St Germain's 2000 release Tourist were both instantly destroyed by the rapid adoption of almost every album track by marketeers and television commercial directors, but somehow Moon Safari retained a warm place in my heart (no doubt artificially for I am sure its track-list was as thoroughly plundered by the ad industry as the others).

Apart from the soundtrack for Virgin Suicides almost every other release has been a disappointment, some painfully so, and hearing Moon Safari so neutered by Clery's tannoys I had to ask myself whether it always had sounded so bland, and was the regard with which I held it more a product of the status it held as the soundtrack to a memorable year than an indicator of genuine quality?

I still have no answer to this, but I am rather happy to say that 14 years later they have finally released something else that I don't think is completely poo, perhaps on par with The Virgin Suicides. Coincidentally arriving just in time to ride the post-Oscar nomination wave of Martin Scorcese's Hugo (a film about which I have not a single bad thing to say, even the 3D actually added something of value to the story, it was simply the best film I have seen in ages), Air's new album is a soundtrack to the restored hand-painted colour version of Georges Méliès 1902 groundbreaking Le Voyage Dans La Lune, which features heavily in Hugo, though the Air soundtrack is a completely unrelated project.


It is worth buying the extended edition of the album, which also includes a DVD of the restored sixteen-minute film with the accompanying new soundtrack, or as I looked at it, it is worth buying the DVD, which just happens to come with an album of extended versions of the soundtrack.

Back in January the Guardian did an interesting feature on the production of the album, in which Nicholas Godin (one half of the duo) said "It's like a loop. Fifteen years later we find ourselves still on the moon… although this is a very different piece of music". Le Voyage Dans La Lune is a nice bookend, making it deceptively easy to forget all the rubbish that came between Moon Safari and it.

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3 Comments:

At 9:53 am, Blogger Felicity Ford said...

I love this post so much. Sometimes I swear we own the exact same albums. K&D sessions, Moon Safari, and a weird album from WARP called Artificial Intelligence dominate my memories of an entire era, and I love the nostalgic and philosophical way that you have written about Moon Safari here.

I also laughed out loud at your reminder of the soulless way that Moby's PLAY was "instantly destroyed" and your post now has me searching on Youtube for Saint Germain...

 
At 1:13 pm, Anonymous Ciaran said...

I came across your post whilst trying to figure out why on earth La Femme d'Argent has been playing on a loop constantly outside Cleary's for the past 6 weeks. I pass by twice a day, and it's always on, no matter the time. Just that one song. Over and over.

 
At 1:28 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

@Felicity Ford - Artificial Intelligence is the album that changed everything for me. Within a week or two of hearing it I had Incunabula and Surfing on Sine Waves and it all went a bit crazy after that...

@Ciaran - I passed by Clery's last night and it was on again, I thought the chances of hitting the exact same part of their playlist were a bit slim. Sounds to me like they're taking lessons from the US Army and trying to numb us all into submission with an endless repetitive loop. Can you imagine how wrecked the heads of the newspaper sellers outside must be?

 

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