Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon)

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It's a neat trick that Air began their albums with a trip to the moon via Moon Safari and returned to it with Le Voyage Dans La Lune, the expanded version of the duo's score to Georges Méliès' 1912 sci-fi classic. It's a perfect project for Air; Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin's sound has always had a spacey quality, and film music has been a vital component of their work. Le Voyage Dans La Lune presents an interesting challenge for Air in that most of their other scores and soundtracks have been for films with more modern settings (even the '70s kitsch they subverted and romanticized in their Virgin Suicides soundtrack). While Dunckel and Godin don't attempt to make this music sound like it was recorded on wax cylinder, many of the cues have a stateliness that suggest a much earlier time. Similarly, Air nod to the traditions of sci-fi scores while making them their own: "Who Am I Now?" borrows the discordant strings often used to convey space madness, and the imposing timpani that runs through the entire album evokes Strauss' "Thus Sprach Zarathustra," which was further immortalized by 2001: A Space Odyssey. And while Le Voyage Dans La Lune is a silent film, allowing the duo to be a bit showier than they could be on a score for a talkie, Air's choices feel more thoughtful and organic to the movie than, say, Giorgio Moroder's '80s score for another silent science fiction classic, Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Godin and Dunckel make sure their voyage to the moon evokes both meanings of the word "trip": there's a wonderful sense of movement throughout the score, of rockets thrusting and of the explorers bouncing, tumbling, and stumbling on the moon; meanwhile, the fizzy, percolating "Cosmic Trip," which mentions "enormous mushrooms," implies the more psychedelic undertones of this Art Nouveau fantasy. As expected of Air, there's elegance to the whimsy, particularly on the lovely "Moon Fever" and "Seven Stars," where Beach House's Victoria Legrand's voice sounds as deep and serene as an endless night sky. However, Le Voyage Dans La Lune also has a surprisingly aggressive side, with bombastic prog rock outbursts like "Parade" and "Sonic Armada," which mixes a martial beat with a groovy, insistent keyboard line and a bassline as bouncy as marching on the moon to become one of Air's most memorable instrumentals in some time. These tracks hark back to the duo's own 10,000 Hz Legend and reflect not only the conquering bent of the lunar explorers, but how this turn-of-the-century trippiness ultimately inspired many of the progressive rock bands of the '60s and '70s. That Air can pack so much history into this music without its feeling contrived is impressive, but it's just another facet of the care that went into the entire Le Voyage Dans La Lune project. This is a treat not just for Air fans, but aficionados of film music and science fiction, too.

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