The Echoes March CD of the Month:
Air’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune
The duo called Air is one the most influential acts to come out of France since Jean-Michel Jarre in the early 1970s. Their debut album, Moon Safari is an enduring classic and its cinematic moods got them into films, notably scoring Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Now they’ve gone back to a silent film from 1902 called Le Voyage Dans La Lune (Trip to the Moon)directed by George Méliès. It’s a ground-breaking work whose imagery is still being used today in videos for Queen and Smashing Pumpkins and most recently playing a central role in the movie Hugo.
Le Voyage Dans La Lune follows a group of astronomers who build a rocket, go to the moon, see magic mushrooms, meet moon men (Selenites), have a battle and then return home. The surreal images and hand-colored tints immediately call to mind another psychedelic era: the English brand of pastoral Victorian whimsy favored by early Pink Floyd, Traffic, and most notably, The Beatles. With images that include dream sequences, astronomers in wizard’s costumes with pointed hats, magic mushrooms and a rocket landing in the moons eye, a psychedelic mindscape is conjured up. Air taps into that, but with a distinctly 21st century sensibility.
The album has that old-time, vaudevillian music hall sound that was embedded in the acid-laced fantasies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They even use timpani on several tracks, including the bombastic “Astronomic Club” and the jungle march of “Décollage.”
In some respects this is the wildest music Air has produced. “Sonic Armada” – the score for meeting the aliens – manages to tie together 1970s electric Herbie Hancock with 1967 Pink Floyd. Sound effects course through the driving track which is topped by a squeezed and filter swept electric keyboard solo that might have come from Hancock’s Headhunters.
But amidst the aggressive sounds are moments of contemplation. There is a purely new-agey dream sequence of dripping chime tones and the the flowing, pensive mood of “Moon Fever.”
Several tracks from the DVD, like the building-the-rocket music, don’t appear on the CD, and other tracks like “Moon Fever” only appear on the CD. That includes a pair of tripped-out nursery rhyme songs: “Seven Stars,” sung by the band and Victoria Legrand and “Who Am I Now,” sung by Au Revoir Simone.
The film itself is a trippy mix of dated Jules Verne quaintness, imaginatively surreal juxtapositions and colonialist jingoism. They meet the moon men, kill them, and bring one home on a leash for the victory parade. And there are always women standing around in matron’s uniforms, navy uniforms or dancing like showgirls. Even the alien moon men have terrestrial girls decorating the throne.
Le Voyage Dans La Lune is a funhouse of a CD and tracks like “Parade,” which closes the film, will leave you smiling. CD of the Month club members will not only get the CD, but the deluxe edition which includes the DVD of Le Voyage Dans La Lune with Air’s soundtrack.
Air has taken us on a different kind of “Moon Safari”. Next stop: Mars?
You can see the entire film of Le Voyage Dans La Lune here:
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
Hear the Echoes Interview with Air: