[Astralwerks; 2012]

Accompaniments have become an interesting trend over the last year or two. Candy Claws’ 2010 record Hidden Lands rooted its inspiration completely in the Richard M. Ketchum book The Secret Life of the Forest where some lines were taken directly from the book. Even in the last couple months, artists have ventured their music to something beyond the sole material with Themes For An Imaginary Film by Symmetry and now Air’s Le voyage dans la lune. This particular album explores the 1902 French silent film of the same name and attempts to give a larger life to what is considered the first science-fiction film ever made. When tied to the film, Air’s attempt reveals itself as musically savvy and elegant, but at other times the stand-alone piece comes off as slightly indulgent.

Le voyage dans la lune could be considered short. However, the album’s runtime is around 31 minutes, while the film’s barely pushes the 13-minute mark, which makes the prospect of syncing the two together difficult. Though, in the event that the listener views Le voyage dans la lune at the same time, there are very specific cues that tie directly to each other. It is more as if each brief scene has its designated song rather than the album being completely designated to the film.

The difficult matter about Air’s re-imagining is that, without the context of the film, the album’s production choices like the vocal interruptions, are troublesome to understand as something that could make sense for simple listening purposes. Having little to no knowledge of the film will likely hamper one’s ability to enjoy Air’s perspective of a silent film that made history, but it’s fortunately easy to find with a simple YouTube search and it is recommended to view it, as it does enhance both the listening and viewing experiences.

Musically, Le voyage dans la lune is not extremely deep, but moments of brilliance come through on plenty of its tracks. The album has a percussive theme running through its veins that it is immediately detectable from the moment it starts. “Seven Stars,” the outstanding track on the album, is shaped by a drum fill that works surprisingly well for an album based on a 109 year-old film. “Seven Stars” is brilliant, though, because of how very simple it is; the sparingly used yet beautiful piano rhythm and the outstanding vocal duet featuring Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, rendering the song so smooth.

Known for the way they create retro-futuristic music, Air hits hard between the two. At first listen, the integration of synths and vocal permutations on tracks like “Astronomic Club” or “Cosmic Trip” may come off to the listener as corny with the organic musicianship, but with an understanding of the film, the pieces of these decisions come together as something more in-line with a proper soundtrack since it fits the film so well. As a package on its own, Air’s Le voyage dans la lune doesn’t hit especially hard, but when paired with the historic film, they become a dreamy, fulfilling piece of entertainment and mystery.