Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin, the French duo behind Air, are voyeurs. So much of their pursed-lips-and-smoke-wisps output has been delivered so close to the vest that it's easy to believe they permanently reside behind a two-way mirror. Air's sonic caresses sound innocent but not wide-eyed, and therefore they unfurl like the stylized vamps of somnambulist/sex fantasy The Hunger
or the impotent orgy in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut
. Air is more a contemplation of copulation than a celebration of completion (see "One Hell of a Party" feat. Jarvis Cocker). Yet the group produces beautiful children, mingling chorales of gentle piano, nylon string swatches, and swaying koto with lite programming/processing.
With Pocket Symphony, the pair's fourth proper full-length, Air's slow-motion tones continue to offer tracings of life that never feel like fully engaged portraits, even at their most blushed and turgid ("Napalm Love," "Mer Du Japon"). Air's gentle brushes of electrocoustic aureoles are as fluid and easily quaffed as champagne ("Once Upon a Time," "Photograph"), yet forgo the unabashed flirtatiousness associated with such a libation. Symphony is Air's silkiest, most isolated soundtrack, a diorama of crystalline diminuendo. Tony Ware