Air's Moon Safari is an era-defining French album worth celebrating, 25 years on

Air's Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin as illustrated on the cover of their 1998 deut album Moon Safari

There's no telling how many special moments have been soundtracked by Moon Safari, the acclaimed 1998 debut album from French duo Air.

An era-defining record of pristine, space-age lounge music delivered with cinematic atmosphere and a distinctively French je ne se quios , Moon Safari was a universal critical and commercial success upon release.

The lush easy-listening music was perfectly suited to post-club comedowns, hip cafes, and make-out sessions: smooth and dreamy enough to be played in the background, but singular and masterfully crafted enough to reward close listening.

It proved highly influential, too. But the wave of mellow, down tempo imitators and 'chill out' CD compilations it spawned struggled to surpass Air's chic, exquisitely woozy beauty.

'It was not meant to be played live'

Jean-Benoît Dunckel, one half of Air alongside Nicolas Godin, never expected Moon Safari's enduring success.

"We never imagined this album could work that way worldwide," he tells Karen Leng on Double J Lunch. 

"It took time, it took decades, [but] the success is not by us, the audience made [it]."

This year, the duo has been playing Moon Safari in full around the world on their first tour in seven years, including Australia.

"It was not made to be played live," says Dunckel. 

"We had to adapt it for the live [setting]. That is what the people want to get — this special feeling they heard the first time… to live again these feelings."

Having played two nights at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live , Air will live-stream their show at London's Royal Albert Hall this weekend.

"It's a beautiful venue," says Dunckel, who is keen to preserve a pristine performance of the album online for future access.

"It's really important to do that because… people can also discover the band live. Some people appreciate the live versions more than the recorded versions."

Performing as a trio, alongside drummer Louis Delorme, Air play inside an oblong box adorned with dazzling lights and visuals, which morph from swathes of minimalist colour to the perspective of a spaceship enjoying interstellar travel.

"We play in a box of light. It looks a bit like the studio on the cover of 10 000 Hz Legend," says Dunckel, referencing the band's second studio album — a weirder, wilder reaction to Moon Safari.

Air perform on Sydney Opera House stage with visuals of a ship in hyperspace behind them.

"It could be a home, it could be our world, our head, our architectural concept. It helps for people to enter into a world… people like [that] intimacy."

Dunckel says people often ask: "Are you not bored to play these songs you play for 20 years now?"

"Sometimes I struggle — because you have to concentrate, and you have to play. But I'm never bored. It's always a pleasure."

Moon Safari is a product of its era, but it's also aged beautifully.

It's an evocative listening experience, from the moment lengthy opener 'La femme d'argent' ushers you in with the sounds of water and slinky bassline, through to the weightless pop and robot-voiced melodies of 'Kelly Watch The Stars' and 'New Star in the Sky'.

In 1998, its retro-futuristic arrangements already sounded timeless. 25 years later, its ability to transport your mind and imagination elsewhere hasn't dated one iota.

"It could be a journey, a love story," remarks Dunckel. "That's why we're really attached to it. I think the audience is searching for that, too.

"It helps human relationships in every way," adds Dunckel. Over the years, Air fans have shared "so many stories" of what the album means to them.

"Most of the time it's for love. It's always, 'I met my girlfriend or wife this time'."

Back in 1998, Dunckel told triple j that while hiking in Iceland, his guide revealed Moon Safari was his love-making soundtrack.

There's "probably" plenty of babies in the world with some of the album's DNA in them since, Dunckel estimates of a new generation discovering Air for the first time.

"As we are getting old now, it's becoming that people say, 'oh yeah, my parents were listening to Moon Safari when we were travelling in a car; this family time'."

Close up image of two men with brown hair looking at the camera with straight faces

Sexy Boy, the surprising queer anthem

For many, debut single 'Sexy Boy' was their first introduction to Air. A seductive slice of synth-pop that brought vocoder back to the pop charts and sung in both French and English.

It's a seemingly simple song but Dunckel notes there's "a lot of tolerance and freedom" embedded in it.

"Sexy Boy, first of all, is a strange title because it breaks a certain taboo. The taboo is that heterosexual boys can check out other boys," he explains.

"Also, it became a gay slogan in a way. A gay anthem."

The song took on a new meaning in late 90s Paris when the electronic music scene's wider acceptance of the LGTBQI+ community led to more club and techno nights dedicated to queer punters and DJs emerging.

"There was a lot of gay parties," says Dunckel. "Homosexuality is everywhere in the world, and it's always existed, always there. So, it was important to liberate this movement."

Originally, the song's titular phrase was inspired by Parisian fashion culture.

"People are checking each other out all the time… In Paris, when a couple is meeting another couple, the girl is not going to check out the boy. She's going to check out the other girl: analyse what she wears, how she behaves, what is the fashion or type of the boyfriend.

"Sexy Boy is speaking about that. The fact a man wants to be a pretty man and he is checking [out] other boys."

A popular soundtrack choice, featured in teen rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You and noughties TV drama Queer As Folk, 'Sexy Boy' is also a testament to youth.

The French verses are "celebrating that golden age of being young," Dunckel explains.

"When you're young you don't realise you're at the top of your life. You have a lot of power, actually… because you're beautiful. Your skin, hair, you feel great, you have a lot of energy."

The makings of a classic

Despite its iconic status, Moon Safari was actually the last roll of the dice for Dunckel and Godin.

Raised in the conservative suburb of Versailles, the pair began making music together after meeting at school. But after having their demo tapes rejected by every record label they approached, they quit music and instead focused on their studies.

Each had established careers — Godin in architecture, Dunckel in mathematics — when an opportunity presented itself in a close friend landing a role with Virgin Records imprint Source.

They landed a deal with the label but ditching their jobs for a full-time career in music to support their burgeoning families was a gamble.

black and white portrait of French duo Air: Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel

"We were 26 years old. We were not sure we come be musicians for the rest of our life," remembers Dunckel. "I was already working [as] a physics teacher… I had a baby."

Thankfully, their risk was rewarded when their debut album became a breakout international hit. Air was swiftly lumped alongside a fresh wave of Parisian artists reinventing the electronic music scene in the late 90s.

Dubbed French touch, the movement included Cassius, St. Germain, Étienne de Crécy, and Daft Punk, who recorded their breakout 1997 album Homework down the street from where Air made Moon Safari.

"There was a kind of energy circulating all over Paris," recalls Dunckel. "Paris is kind of small; all the media, artists and business part of it [were] working all together."

The worlds of music, fashion, contemporary art, cinema — "everything was mixed," Dunckel says.

"At this time, new generations of young people coming from the suburbs are even inside Paris and mixing all these rich, futuristic concepts together with new machines, samplers, computer programs to make music."

A fond farewell to youth

Despite being poster boys for the future of French music, Moon Safari was an evocative, nostalgia-drenched ode to Dunckel and Godin's past.

"In a way it was the end of my youth… That's why the songs [on Moon Safari], there are a lot of regrets and it's a goodbye to our youth and the innocence of it.

"It's full of vibrations from teenage times."

Although labelled an electronic act, Air's music wasn't rooted in beats and house music. Instead, they armed themselves with analogue Moog and Korg synthesizers, vintage drum machines, vocoders and the trusty Rhodes piano.

The resulting compositions bore the esprit of Serge Gainsbourg, electronic pioneers like Jean-Michel Jarre, and the 1970s film and TV soundtracks of Dunckel's childhood.

There's a fondness for the psychedelic grandeur of Pink Floyd and ELO. But also, Burt Bacharach arrangements, particularly in the wistful French horn topline of ''Ce matin là' (This morning) and the easy-going 'You Make It Easy' and 'All I Need', both featuring the lyrics and vocals of Godin's then-neighbour, Beth Hirsch.

From its lush, otherworldly sounds right down to its title, Moon Safari gives rise to cosmic ideas and conducive to escapism. That spirit is central to Air's entire ethos.

"I think music exists in paradise and you can feel this [album] is in a strange interface between our world and something else."

Such ephemeral expressions might be surprising coming from a former physics teacher, but Dunckel says "both sides of your brain help" when it comes to making emotive art.

"There is a mathematic aspect of music, that analyses and helps you perform and conceive music. But there is something else happening, your heart is talking.

"As a musician you're organising the vibrations of your heart and the feelings into music… vibrations travelling into space and air."

"When I do a song, it's all about 'what do I feel?'" Dunckel concludes.

"For me, good means it affects me. No good means I don't feel anything… if it affects me, it's going to affect others, too. They're going to feel the feelings I do, too."

Air live-stream their performance at London's Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 1 June. Details here .

Hear Karen Leng hosting  Lunch on Double J from midday Monday to Thursday.

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air moon safari

How Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ became an elegant masterpiece of '90s electronic music

Released in early 1998, Versailles duo Air’s debut album ‘Moon Safari’ was a gentle antidote to the wave of French Touch at the time. With an emphasis on melody and mood, it became a ubiquitous soundtrack to the end of the 20th century, and still sounds inspired today. Here, Ben Cardew explores its legacy

This feature was originally published by DJ Mag North America in 2019

So much electronic music is dominated by rhythm: the 4/4 stomp of techno; the woozy pulse of dubstep; the clattering breaks of jungle and drum and bass. However, some of the best electronic music — from Kraftwerk to Daft Punk, Masters at Work to Underground Resistance — is based on a wonderful understanding of melody, creating those hooks that stick in your head at the end of the night when the legs have been reduced to a mushy pulp. 

To this list we might add Air, the silkily nerdish duo from Versailles, who combine classical melodies with heady atmospherics, Serge Gainsbourg-esque élan and more than a hint of sex. Their music laid a framework for a generation of magenta-hued chill–out bands to idle out of the woodwork in their wake.

1998’s ‘Moon Safari’ was Air’s debut album, and, to date, their defining act. If you were young at the end of the 1990s and had anything more than a passing interest in electronic music you will have heard it, soundtracking dinner and after parties, school runs, chill-out rooms and 1,001 stodgy TV dramas. So ubiquitous did ‘Moon Safari’ become, in fact, and so many terrible bands did it inspire, that Air became almost persona non grata in the 2000s, their career hobbled by the intolerable omnipresence of their debut.

air moon safari

And yet, when you consider everything Air had against them, it was a minor miracle they even made their breakthrough. Air weren’t particularly fashionable, for a start. Even in the mid ’90s, when Parisian music was riding the sizzling wave of French Touch, band members Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel resembled more the architecture and maths students they had so recently been than the fashionable men around town their peers aspired to. 

“It was the late 1990s and Paris suddenly had this incredible electronic music scene: all these clubs were opening up. I didn’t get to go to all the parties, though, because I was generally at home with my wife taking care of Solal, our baby,” Dunckel told The Guardian in 2016. “We were poor. I knew our livelihood depended on Air being successful.”

Air dreamed to be different, both visually and sonically. There was nothing edgy or unconstrained about the band, no whiff of rebellion to get the heart strings pounding, and little in the way of beats to dance to. Most of all, as a stylistic decision, Air chose to be quiet: a gentle Gallic nuzzle to the ear rather than a voluptuous bear hug.

Air in the studio

‘Sexy Boy’, the first single to be taken from ‘Moon Safari’, is typical of the duo’s individualistic approach to songwriting, marked by an androgynous, indistinct vocal. "If we’d sung ‘sexy girl’, it would have been a disaster. ‘Sexy Boy’ felt different,” Godin told The Guardian. “The song was about who we wanted to be; we weren’t handsome when we were younger; our friends always had more success with girls.”

So Air were big, unfashionable softies in a musical decade marked by innovation, ambition and noise. It would have been easy for Air to spanner together disco samples and filters to create a French House tune that would temporarily captivate the Parisian nightclubs. What Air did was to rely on melody and timbre to make their hugely elegant point. ‘Moon Safari’ was the epitome of this, the album’s 10 tracks forming a closed loop of such melodic brilliance and galactic ambience that listening to anything else afterwards felt like scraping muddy boots on a silk-lined boudoir. These are melodies that stick in the brain like glue, suspended in zero G by a velvety ambience of Fender Rhodes, clavinet, vocoder, strings and Moog.

Countless articles have been written about the recording of ‘Moon Safari’, and you can see why: the album pulled off the difficult task of sounding both futuristic and retro, its mixture of vocoders, synths and Serge Gainsbourg bass resembling a 1960’s vision of the gilded future, a combination best heard on the impossibly lush string and vocoder jam ‘Remember’.

air moon safari

Album opener ‘La Femme d’Argent’ is a wonderful example of Air’s insouciant melodic brilliance. The track also features stunning bass work, sporting the kind of bassline that carries the song on its back and leaves you singing in the shower.

Air were classically trained musicians who wore their hearts on their sleeves. The atmosphere of their music was balanced by the human emotion in their songwriting. ‘You Make It Easy’, a glittering highlight, spoke of the magic of falling in love, Beth Hirsch’s vocal soaked in emotion, while ‘New Star in the Sky (Chanson pour Solal)’ seemed to inject a whole galaxy of love and wonder into four tightly-packed lines with the ultra efficiency of a haiku.

And it was this, ultimately, that separated ‘Moon Safari’ from the music that came in its wake. Among the trends that the album inspired were an international Serge Gainsbourg revival, a renewed interest in film soundtracks, and the career of Sofia Coppola, with the band scoring her directorial debut The Virgin Suicides the year after ‘Moon Safari’s’ release. You can hear the album’s influence in the work of acts like Kid Loco, Bent, Röyksopp, Crustation, Tim “Love” Lee, Cibo Matto, Sébastian Tellier and more. But what few of these acts seemed to grasp, in their search for ever lusher melodic beds, was at the centre of Air’s artifice was a beating heart. Rather than the clatter of drums, this was the rhythm that ‘Moon Safari’ moved to.

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Moon Safari

Air’s instant breakthrough of a debut is effortlessly cool—a haze of vaporized vocals, warm synths, and stainless steel hi-fi sensibility. Without being as kitschy or (wink, wink) ironic as its spacey “Sexy Boy” single might lead you to believe, the album is an immaculate collection of suave Moog moves and future-disco downtempo. A defining achievement in the chill-out subgenre, it rightfully dominated compilation racks at the turn of the century on the strength of songs like “Kelly Watch the Stars” and “You Make It Easy.”

January 16, 1998 10 Songs, 43 minutes Label Parlophone, ℗ 1998 Warner Music France

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Moon Safari - 10th Anniversary Edition

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By Mark Pytlik

Astralwerks / Virgin

April 24, 2008

We all know what horrors illegal downloading has wrought on new releases; one side effect of that erosion involves labels attempting to recoup those losses by re-animating their back catalogues, Mary Shelley style. Before the big swoon, it was tough to justify a reissue without a remaster, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and so lately, we've seen an increasing spate of albums re-released for no other reason than a round-number anniversary. In the cases of your Thriller s and your Pet Sounds , that's a justifiable enough benchmark-- in a way, those reissues provide the platform to talk about us and how much we've changed as much as the music. Something like the new deluxe edition of Air's Moon Safari , though, is a slightly trickier proposition.

For starters: There's the niggling question of whether Air's debut, superb as it is, really merits canonical treatment. As a collection of songs, it's endured well enough over time; after a decade, it still holds up fine. But so have a ton of other similarly acclaimed and successful records from 1998, and it doesn't seem remotely appropriate to roll out the red carpet for those either. As far as modern connect points go, there's nothing really happening musically at the moment that makes Moon Safari suddenly worthy of re-examination. If anything, with its dainty sonics and polite arpeggios, a lot of this record runs counter to the discofied and Balearic dance that's currently in fashion. Even Air would quickly abandon the cultivated library music aesthetic that characterized this record in favor of spindlier, more complicated, more sinister material. So yeah: As a snapshot of a place in time, you could do a lot worse than Moon Safari . But as something to be canonized in a three-disc set? The physics are lost on me. What, aside from the poetry of the number 10, is the exact reason to celebrate it now?

Granted, it probably wasn't Air's idea to do this, and it's certainly not their fault that Moon Safari 's legacy ultimately yielded a long list of bands along the lines of Lemon Jelly, Zero 7, Morcheeba, and Thievery Corporation, so perhaps it's fairer just to concentrate on what this reissue offers rather than the reason for it. The answer there, unfortunately, is: mixed returns. Although a robust collection featuring the original album, a disc of bonuses and B-sides, and a DVD featuring Mike Mills' 1999 tourfilm Eating, Sleeping, Waiting and Playing , this reissue doesn't offer nearly enough in the way of substantive bonus material to warrant its existence, nor does it even select the right material from that era to re-package.

The bonus disc is the biggest indicator of the lack of quality control or thoughtfulness on hand: instead of material from the duo's excellent surrounding EPs, Le Soleil Est Près De Moi and the singles compilation Premiers Symptômes (a lot of which could actually benefit from having a light shone on it), we get five live tracks-- including a horrible, thrashy version of "Kelly Watch the Stars"-- which expose Air's live approach early on as light on musicianship and heavy on grating affectation and kitsch. Of the remaining demos and remixes, only the two-minute long, string-heavy take on "Remember" (itself a resurrected B-side) and a sparse demo of "You Make It Easy" (from when it was an instrumental called "Bossa 96") are remotely illuminating. Everything else just feels incidental and reheated.

Provided you like your filmmaking mannered and slightly cutesy, Mills' documentary remains a worthwhile curiosity, but even still, I can't imagine that anyone who'd be willing to shell out the money for a Moon Safari 10th Anniversary Edition wouldn't be acquainted with it already. Aside from that, you're basically paying for the packaging; in this case, that means a DVD-sized hardcover package with a nice, if slightly unnecessary, lyrics book attached. As a case for Moon Safari as a classic record, it falls a little short. But as a nice keepsake of a lovely record, it could be worse. I guess in the end it's really just a matter of whether you're fanatical enough about this album to buy it again. Virgin's either betting (or hoping) that enough of you are.


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air moon safari

Air’s Moon Safari deluxe tracklisting officially confirmed

25th anniversary edition.

By Paul Sinclair

air moon safari

After much speculation, the tracklisting of the 2CD+blu-ray 25th anniversary reissue of Air’s 1998 album Moon Safari – specifically the content of CD 2 – has been confirmed by the record label.

The second disc will feature the following tracks:

  • 01 Neneh Cherry – ‘Kootchi’ (Air Remix)
  • 02 Crustation – ‘Purple’ (La Femme D’argent Mix)
  • 03 Dirty Hiroshima (Demo)
  • 04 New Star in the Sky (Demo)
  • 05 Ce Matin Lá (Demo)
  • 06 Maggot Brain (Live)
  • 07 J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau (BBC live session)
  • 08 SEXY BOY (BBC live session)
  • 09 Kelly Watch The Stars (BBC live session)
  • 10 Kelly Watch The Stars (Extended Version)
  • 11 Remember (David Whitaker Version)

The first thing to make clear is that it is not the same as the second CD in the previously released 10th anniversary edition , although there is some overlap, namely the three BBC live tracks and the David Whitaker version of ‘Remember’. In terms of the other selections, the Air remix of Neneh Cherry’s Kootchi was previously featured on CD 3 of the Twentyears deluxe edition in 2016, as was the ‘La Femme D’Argent Mix’ of Crustation’s ‘Purple’. The demos appear to be previously unreleased and the Extended Version of ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’ has never been issued on CD before.

The other new info is that David Whitaker’s version of ‘Remember’ is also available in Dolby Atmos on the blu-ray as a bonus track. Also, the hi-res stereo version of the album on the blu-ray, along with that bonus track, is in super high resolution: 192 kHz / 24 bit.

Moon Safari will be reissued on 8 March 2024 via Rhino. This is available via the SDE shop should you choose to support SDE. Use this link or the button below, if you want to do that.

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Moon Safari 2CD+blu-ray


air moon safari

Moon Safari Air /

  • La femme d’argent
  • All I Need (feat. Beth Hirsch)
  • Kelly Watch the Stars
  • You Make It Easy (feat. Beth Hirsch)
  • Ce matin là
  • New Star in the Sky (Chanson pour Solal)
  • Le voyage de Pénélope
  • Neneh Cherry – ‘Kootchi’ (Air Remix)
  • Crustation – ‘Purple’ (La Femme D’argent Mix)
  • Dirty Hiroshima (Demo)
  • New Star in the Sky (Demo)
  • Ce Matin Lá (Demo)
  • Maggot Brain (Live)
  • J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau (BBC live session)
  • Sexy Boy (BBC live session)
  • Kelly Watch The Stars (BBC live session)
  • Kelly Watch The Stars (Extended Version)
  • Remember (David Whitaker Version)

“Moon Safari” Dolby Atmos Album

Bonus track, official videos in hd.

  • Kelly Watch The Stars
  • Le Soleil Est Prés De Moi

Eating Sleeping, Waiting and Playing – Documentary by director Mike Mills

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Leave it to the French to turn retro-leaning lounge music into space-age scores.

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Air Moon Safari

Leave it to the French to turn retro-leaning lounge music into space-age scores. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel achieved just that, announcing their arrival with their debut album, Moon Safari by Air “French band” on January 16, 1998.

Labeled an electronic act, Air was light years away from their Gallic contemporaries Daft Punk. Instead, they crafted the perfect post-club soundtrack with dreamy, spectral soundscapes, and a jazz-like sensibility that washed away all memories and substances from the night before.

This new incarnation of “chill-out” music in electronica was also decidedly analogue, a study in contrasts that felt both nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. Armed with old Roland drum machines, vintage synths, a Rhodes piano, and even some bongos, Air oozed 60s kitsch. Some likened it to camp, others an homage, but to a young audience who didn’t grow up going to key parties and listening to Francis Lai, it felt wonderfully exotic and revolutionary.

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Listen to Moon Safari now .

Before they became purveyors of ambient pop, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel were just two students from Versailles who worshipped at the altar of rock in a country that was historically blasé about the form. They played in an indie band in university before forming Air and released two EP’s in ’95 and ’96 that ended up on their Premier Symptomes compilation. Blending Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson samples with trance music, the duo already proved themselves masters of mood, but it wasn’t until Moon Safari where they showed their chops for pop craft as well with the singles, “Sexy Boy” and “Kelly Watch the Stars.”

With the exception of artists like Serge Gainsbourg , Johnny Hallyday, or Jean-Michel Jarre, not many French acts had been able to crack the international charts, but in the mid-90s, downtempo acts such as St. Germain, Daft Punk, and La Funk Mob were reinventing the French music scene and people were taking notice. As Godin recently told The Guardian , “Before we came along, French pop was synonymous with Sacha Distel. I hated it. But electronic music meant you could make cool music without being a rocker.”

Arriving during the swan song of Britpop, Moon Safari instead embraced theatricality, with its vast symphonic arrangements that borrowed equally from Burt Bacharach as it did from Pink Floyd and ELO. When it came time to record, Godin and Dunckel took a cue from their muses and recorded the string sections at the legendary Abbey Road studios with noted arranger David Whitake, who’d worked with everyone from Serge Gainsbourg to France Gall, The Rolling Stones , Jimmy Page, and Sylvie Vartan. In contrast, the rest of the record was recorded on an 8-track machine and purposely retro gear, not only for aesthetic purposes but also to challenge the duo musically.

Starting a record with a track that has a 7-minute plus running time is a bold move, but “La femme d’argent” is the perfect opener for the sonic odyssey that is Moon Safari . Beginning with soft rain over the Blaxploitation sample “Runnin” by Edwin Starr, it builds into an exquisite musical montage that proves you don’t need a bass drop to feel catharsis. This electronic crescendo is then quickly followed by the album’s breakout single “Sexy Boy” that single-handedly relaunched the vocoder into pop culture along with their other hit, “Remember.” But Moon Safari is not all android disco a la 70s Herbie Hancock. Two of the tracks including “All I Need” and “You Make It Easy” feature American singer-songwriter Beth Hirsch, whose honeyed vocals float over the acoustic and ambient lounge arrangements.

From the galloping bass line of “Talisman” to the tuba solos of “Ce Matin La,” Moon Safari is a mosaic of retro references and yet Air never limits themselves to just references, instead they create their own universe and a soundtrack to a movie that never existed. That’s what happens when you get two studio obsessives with a love of astrophysics and staying in. Moon Safari is the ultimate armchair exploration, all you need is a shag rug and decent speakers.

Following their debut, Air quickly became a critical darling worldwide and was praised for putting French pop back on the map and yet reception in their home country was not as enthusiastic. Moon Safari peaked at No. 21 on the French album charts and No. 6 in the UK. They were similarly a massive success stateside, landing a US tour, ad placements, remixes, and glowing reviews. Just a year later, they were scoring the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s tale of 70s suburban ennui, The Virgin Suicides , with their atmospheric opus.

Now 20 years later, it’s clear how Air profoundly changed the cultural perceptions around not only French music but electronic music in general, pushing the boundaries of both to create something wholly unique and often replicated in the decades that followed.

Purchase Moon Safari here .

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Air Plot North American Tour to Mark 25th Anniversary of Debut Album ‘Moon Safari’

By Althea Legaspi

Althea Legaspi

Electronic French duo Air are marking the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Moon Safari , with a tour. Launching this fall, the trek will feature them playing the album in its entirety for the first time, as they did on their recent European tour.

The 19-date tour kicks off in Vancouver on Sept. 19 in Vancouver at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, before venturing down the West Coast with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and two shows in Los Angeles. Midwest dates include Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit before they head to the East Coast and then south, culminating in Austin at Moody Amphitheatre on Oct. 30.

Tickets go on sale March 8 at 10 a.m. local time, with presale available on March 7 at 10 a.m. local time.

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The original album made Rolling Stone ’s “ 100 Best Albums of the ‘90s ” list, describing their space-pop debut as “a truly obsessive  hommage  to easy listening, a sublime Eurocheese omelet. They built their music out of classic Sixties French schlock: bongos, castanets, vintage electric piano, dream-weaver synths, and shag-carpet organ straight from the soundtracks of movies like  Un Homme et Une Femme .”

Air Moon Safari North American Tour Dates Sept. 25 – Vancouver, BC @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre Sept. 27 – Seattle, WA @ Benaroya Hall Sept. 29 – Los Angeles, CA @ Orpheum Sept. 30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Orpheum Oct. 2 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic Oct. 4 – Denver, CO @ Bellco Theater Oct. 6 – Minneapolis, MN @ State Theatre Oct. 8 – Chicago, IL @ Auditorium Theatre Oct. 10 – Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre Oct. 12 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall Oct. 13 – Montreal, QC @ Place Bell Oct. 15 – Boston, MA @ MGM Music Hall at Fenway Oct. 17 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Met Oct. 18 Washington DC @ The Anthem Oct. 21 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre Oct. 24 – Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle Oct. 26 – Miami Beach, FL @ Fillmore Miami Beach Oct. 29 – Dallas, TX @ Music Hall at Fair Park Oct. 30 – Austin, TX @ Moody Amphitheatre

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Air play Moon Safari review: Spectacular, unique, and still revolutionary

W hen Air released their 1998 debut Moon Safari , there was nothing else like it. The French duo – Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin – had conjured an electronic masterpiece full of refined retro-futuristic pop and gentle psychedelia that became essential listening across all sorts of disparate groups, from comedown ravers to the middle-class dinner party set via Radio 1 and film soundtracks. It was utterly of the moment, inspiring countless imitators. That it was all conducted with a chic Parisian insouciance only added to the allure.

But if the record was a unique achievement, it is similarly hard to think of anything quite like their spectacular recreation of the album on the UK debut of a belated 25th anniversary tour. Last night in the opulent setting of London’s magnificent Coliseum, Air brought to life their grand statement in thrilling, emotive, transformative fashion.

Ever the aesthetes, the staging was immaculate. In keeping with the album’s themes – nostalgia for the pair’s 70s childhood and the promised new space age that never materialised – Air, dressed all in white, performed from inside a white rectangular box, a sleek and sophisticated base from which tasteful lighting and otherworldly visuals could emerge. It often brought to mind Kraftwerk recreating 2001: A Space Odyssey .

The immersive setting enhanced the sense of wide-eyed wonder in the music. Air were joined by an impressively agile and powerful drummer and Moon Safari ’s inventiveness came to the fore. Opener “La femme d’argent” began as a lounge track, unfurling leisurely above Godin’s typically precise yet loose bassline before Dunckel added layers of noise. By the end, it had become a swirling psychedelic onslaught.

The hits – a sumptuous “Sexy Boy” and giddy “Kelly Watch the Stars” – sounded invigorated. It was a reminder of how ahead of the curve Air were: at the time, vocoded vocals were still rare in popular music; Moon Safari pre-dated Cher’s “Believe” by nine months. That said, Godin used a vocoder to sing the luxurious ballad “You Make it Easy” (its original singer, Beth Hirsch, was absent), and it was the only moment that didn’t enhance the feeling of the record (the cut-up sampling of Hirsch’s voice for “All I Need” worked far better).

If past Air concerts were a bit too nonchalant for their own good, then last night a sense of occasion brought out, if not quite showmanship, a certain personality that hasn’t always been evident. Dunckel, stationed between two sets of keyboards, often faced the crowd and played both at the same time in an impressively offhand manner. For his part Godin strayed around the stage as he swapped guitars, all smiles and lost-in-the-moment grooves. When an excited audience member shouted “we love you!” during the twinkling intro to “New Star in the Sky”, it could have killed the moment stone dead. Standing at his keyboards, Godin smiled and raised a fist in salute. After album closer “Le voyage de Pénélope” – a wavey, frantic finale – the pair could barely contain their joy at the standing ovation.

Bleachers' Jack Antonoff is a pop Springsteen

After the success of Moon Safari ,Air were so desperate not simply to remake it that, in recording the divisive 2001 follow-up 10,000Hz Legend , they locked all their previous equipment in a cupboard and threw away the key. A wisely chosen second set, then, plucked the highlights from the rest of their catalogue (notably nothing later than 2004). The melodious alt-pop songs of 2004’s Talkie Walkie – the wistful “Cherry Blossom Girl” and guitar-led “Surfing on a Rocket” – are some of their very best; from 10,000Hz Legend , the Krautrock-goes-prog “Don’t be Light” was exhilarating, as was the closing Kraftwerkian manifesto “Electronic Performers”, which ended with an onslaught of dark noise.

But it’s the Moon Safari set that will live long in the memory: an extraordinary performance of an extraordinary album.

Air perform Moon Safari at the Royal Albert Hall on 30-31 May. Then touring

Air at the London Coliseum (Photo: Harry Elletson)


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