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Album Review: Air France – “No Way Down EP”

Posted in Music Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on Sunday, December 14, 2008 by Erik Burg

no-way-down-cover1Alright, so admittedly I am a little late (and by a little I mean like half a year) on this one, but Air France‘s newest release “No Way Down EP” is the perfect album for this time of year in the midwest and one of the better albums I have heard in a while. Finally available in the United States, the EP transcends dozens of musical genres, while creating their own style in the midsts of it all. 

Reading reviews of No Way Down you will be sure to find various suggestions to exactly what their music really should be classified as, but their Wiki page gives the perfect definition: “post-rave bliss, beach foam pop, and balearic disco.” So maybe not perfect in what it actually says, because I have no clue what the word “balearic” means at all, but perfect in the sense there isn’t one distinct pattern or idea throughout the three suggestions.

Upon first listen though you will be able to decide from yourself what Air France is really all about. Is about dreamy country-sides and sunny beaches, or is an empty and hollowing album full of laughter at the expense of the listener rather than for the benefit? This is one of the strong points of the albums, the horns, the laughter, the voices all combine for an experience that is like nothing else because at the end it’s still hard to decide if what you just listened left you feeling happy or sad. And its this basic premise that leaves a refreshing feeling, and makes you listen to the album over and over again (I’m currently on take 5 in 2 days). 

The opening track “Maundy Thursday” begins with and drones on with a deep mellotron and sounds reminiscent of a type-writer, before a stand up bass drum is beat over and over barreling down the listeners ear like a never ending wave. But just as it grows dreary, you’re met with “June Evenings.” “Spring has arrived early here” a quiet voice chimes in, “a time for lovers. and it is as if the season mocks my sadness” the narrator finishes. Soon after you hear horns blasting the background, quickly being brought the foreground and in full display around this masterpiece of a track. Distorted hand-clapping and echoing voices make this track roar like something off of a Panda Bear album. 

“Collapsing at your doorstep” the third track on this EP can be found on numerous year end lists for song of the year, and rightfully so. Beginning again with sampled voices that sound eerily familiar even though I can’t put my finger right on it of two young kids, one of asking “sort of like a dream?” while the other responds “no, better.” The two kids got it right, this whole album, exemplified on this track, is much like a dream; the way it sounds, the images it creates that you just cant explain, the way it ends when you don’t want it to. Air France brings back the horns form the last track, or at least something sounds vastly familiar, but this time adding in a repetitious narrator and some sparse samples in the middle to make the escalating and beautiful music sound even more dreamlike. “Collapsing at your doorstep” ends just as it begins, with the two kids, still exchanging words but this time after the expansive amount music played in between. The answer is still the same, “no, better” but now the listener agrees, Air France is more than a dream. 

Air France becomes an idea; It becomes the sunny beach, the expansive countryside, the virgin snow. Drifting in and out of musical genres, from pop to electronic to afro-beat and back again. “No Way Down” exemplifies what music is all about, it doesn’t have to follow any sort of script or central motif it just has to ooze emotion and care. It’s records like this that reinvigorate my love for music and make me beyond grateful for music as a medium for expression and passion. 

Recommended for people who enjoy: Panda Bear, Jens Lekman, Devendra Barnhardt, Sufjan Stevens.

You be the Judge mp3: Air France – “Collapsing At Your Doorstep” and “June Evenings”

9 out of 10