Le voyage dans la lune

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

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I’ve been doing some serious unplugging lately. Between the 4-day, post-Irene power outage and this past weekend’s trip to Chincoteague Island, which has a very high pony-to-Wi-Fi ratio, I’ve been forced to pause, ignore Twitter and reconnect with old musical friends. This was especially important when the power was out, and I needed something that would be comforting in the midst of a crazy storm and its aftermath (for me, “unplugging” still involves listening to music with a battery-operated iPhone speaker dock. I seem to have some technology addiction issues). Where did I turn? The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, for one. More specifically, the 10th anniversary deluxe edition, which just happened to be my last iTunes purchase before things went crazy. Lighting candles and listening to old favorites like “Down to the River to Pray” and “Po Lazarus,” plus the 14 new tracks that didn’t make the original edition, felt less like weathering a power outage and more like stepping into a time machine with Alison Krauss, Norman Blake and Gillian Welch, bound for Depression-era Mississippi. After a while, Irene-era Richmond didn’t seem so scary. Take a listen below to one of the newly released tracks — the Cox Family’s rendition of “Keep On the Sunny Side,” and buy the deluxe version of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack here.

The Cox Family — “Keep On the Sunny Side”