Sunday, 26 October 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Air France - No Way Down

For a country that’s five times smaller than Blighty, Sweden’s recent output of pretty-pink pop pickers is remarkable. Escaping the mainstream banality of - the hyperbolically bloated - ABBA, gorgeous tunesmiths like Jens Lekman, The Concretes and Peter, Bjorn & John have filtered into the hearts of both snot-nosed musos and tune-hugging mainstreamites with their clutterless, pursed lip melodics.

It’s hardly surprising,then, to find that sky-soaring duo Air France [one part Joel, one part Henrik] are yet another product of this brilliant Scandinavian conveyor belt. Their debut EP - 2006’s On Trade Winds- was a cacophonous masterpiece brushed by Tropicalia and flighty, cloud-bursting grooves. Follow-up EP No Way Down was equally lush; flooded in Casiotoned symphonies and cut-paste-splatter samples that left the palate whetting, desperate for more.

So here it is…Only it isn’t.

What’s served up on No Way Down (LP? Compilation? Whatever…) is an intermittent aperitif intended to capture that attention of the Johnny-come-not-so-latelys. By amalgamating both EPs as one rotating plastic disc Air France are offering a lifeline to those not yet on-board their voyage to widespread populism and if you’ve any sort of inclination for music acumen then clutch it while you can.

Put simply, if No Way Down was an original release it would be record of the year. Soaked in synth-heavy retrospect and enchanting rhythms, each sumptuous cut is a joy to consume. The chasmal bliss of introductory number ‘Maundy Thursday’ initially massages the lugs with a stoic 80s regalia that would have M83 blushing. However, it’s the Balearic quip of follow up ‘June Evenings’ that truly sets the standards for what’s to come.

Plastered with enchanting vocal dalliances and a pushy fanfare of brass, the track’s choleric beats infect the sombrero wearing ‘No Excuses’ and calypso infused ‘Beach Party’ (which brilliantly indulges a sample of Lisa Stanfield’s ‘All Around The World’) like an antidote-less virus. Yet, despite such chill-out protestations it’s The Avalanches that bear most influence; the crimson floating of ‘Windmill Wedding’ and ‘Collapsing At Your Doortstep’’s brick-a-brack samples both aligning with the Australian ensemble’s glue-sticking mission statement.

If one criticism is to be thrown this record’s way it’s that there’s no clear distinction between the two years that separated the release of each EP, with sheenfully produced numbers like ‘No Excuses’ and ‘Never Content’ similarly cloaked in green pasture melody. But when songs are as contagious and uplifting as the - Happy Monday’s lyric lifting (!) - title track, frankly, who gives a damn.

To surmise these 36 minutes of wonderful sonic mastery it’s perhaps best to let the child’s voice on the glorious ‘Collapsing At your Doorstep’ do the talking:

“Sorta like a dream? No, better.”

Originally published here and here's a video of the luscious Never Content

No comments: