I grabbed this on the way out this morning in hopes of getting a get-shit-done boost this week. Christmas shopping. Year-end lists. Prepping to join Doug Nunnally for his Sound Gaze retrospective spectacular on Saturday morning. Lots to do.
But I hadn’t listened to Pocket Symphony in a while, and I forgot about track two — “Once Upon A Time” — which is practically an ode to procrastination. “Don’t try to be on time,” eh? YOU’RE NOT HELPING, AIR.
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Who here likes scary movies? OK, people who raised your hands — have you ever thought about why? I like ’em too, so I’m not trying to get all judgy on you. I’m just wondering if we like them for the same reason. OK, I’ll go first. I think my favorite part of watching scary movies is the catharsis. You get all wrapped up in a terrifying scenario for a few hours, all the while knowing that, with the push of a button (or a stroll down the isle, if you actually went to a movie theater — people still do that, right?), it can all disappear. But in order to get a quality cathartic experience going, you need to be scared. You need to be challenged. You need to have your buttons pressed. I didn’t expect any such button pressing when I pressed play on NPR’s First Listen of French electronic duo Air’s new album, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, but I certainly found it. The album was commissioned as a soundtrack to the newly restored, color version of Georges Méliès’s 1902 silent masterpiece of the same name — a groundbreaking film that’s famous for being the very first science fiction flick. As hokey as the images seem today, its innovative narrative and techniques proved that film could be a playground for our collective imagination, and Air’s soundtrack taps into that sense of imagination beautifully. And whether they meant it to or not, it totally taps into my ever-expanding fear of flight. You know that stereotypical movie scene in which the astronauts are all strapped in, just moments from taking off, and there’s always a distant, vaguely international-sounding voice counting down the seconds until the launch? This scene always terrifies me. Can you imagine that? Like, actually being in the cockpit of a shuttle, just chatting with your colleagues before HURTLING AWAY FROM THE PLANET AT A BAZILLION MILES AN HOUR? What do you talk about? Tell you what I’d be talking about — getting the hell out of there. I feel panicky just typing about it. Well “Seven Stars,” which features Victoria Legrand of Beach House, captures this scene perfectly, right down to the pounding heartbeat that follows the conclusion of the countdown. “Cosmic Trip” does the same trick, with the added personal irony of the announcement from a disembodied female voice that, “All of you will be back home safely, so join us with no fear on our fantastic trip to the moon.” No fear? Very funny, disembodied voice. A real ROTFLMAO-er. But that’s the great thing about movies and music that tap into our fears. I get to freak myself out by imagining what it’s like to take off into space, all with the luxury of staying at my beloved sea level. Preview these two tracks below, buy the album here and click here to watch Méliès’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune on YouTube.
Air — “Seven Stars” (feat. Victoria Legrand)
Air — “Cosmic Trip“