BMG – 2001 – 60 minutes

In the obscure, off-the-wall world of nu-skool electronica, there is a striking parallel between two of the groups who emerged on the scene in recent years. Gallic post-modern Air and absurd, infectious Daft Punk have had a seismic influence on this genre, and yet are as polarised as they are similar. Both released groundbreaking - not to mention hugely successful debuts - in the late 1990s. (Air's Moon Safari (1998) was released a year and a day after Daft Punk's 'Homework').

What binds both acts together is the unprecedented hype surrounding their much anticipated second albums, both finally appearing this year. Both albums contain a faux computer love track: Daft Punk’s ‘Something About Us’ and Air’s ‘How Does It Make You Feel’ are both Vocoder serenades. And while the DP boys in a sense continued the journey they started with ‘Homework’, (‘One More Time’ is this album’s ‘Around The World’), Air have aimed for new musical territory.

The first single ‘Radio # 1 is one of the strongest tracks and there are tinges of what made ‘Moon Safari’ so exciting to listening to. The unique stylistics of Beck Hansen are a welcome vocal contribution to ‘The Vagabond’, a song he makes his own, subsuming his hosts. The guest vocals of Barbara Cohen on ‘Radian’ sound like a subdued Diamanda Galas which sweeps into a flutes ‘n’ strings combination that harks back to 1970s funk/soul. ‘Sex Born Poison’ verges on epic, with analogue effects aplenty, and the chilled out theme continues with ‘People In The City’.

Air have disembarked from ‘Moon Safari’ and ‘The Virgin Suicides’ score, achieving sound that's simultaneously cerebral (in a Kraftwerk kind of way), mellow and brilliant. They have moved away from contrived pop-keyboard-kitsch, but whether Air purists will be pleased is another matter. The album impacts on a certain level, albeit in a very different way to their hugely successful debut. Messieurs Dunkel & Godin play the diversity card here with aplomb and the resulting mélange is magnifique.

Sinéad Gleeson

Tracklisting: Electronic Performers – How Does it Make You Feel – Radio #1 – The Vagabond – Radian – Lucky – Unhappy – Sex Born Poison – People In The City – Wonder Milky Bitch – Don't Be Light – Caramel Prison