Air: The Virgin Suicides

From 1999, a lazy, hazy movie score to die for.

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Astonishingly, it’s 15 years since Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel soundtracked Sofia Coppola’s ethereal film.

At the time, there was already a press backlash against the Frenchmen, after Moon Safari had, out of nowhere, dominated the background music in bars and TV sound-beds for two years. Some said it invented ‘chill-out’ music. Others heard within its dreamy use of space and light a new spin on old prog tropes and motifs. When this score – remastered with bonus tracks here – emerged, one thing was abundantly clear: Air had listened to a heck of a lot of Pink Floyd. Assimilating the more relaxed, languorous phases of The Dark Side Of The Moon and (arguably) Meddle, the album declares its position from the start. Playground Love, sung by Thomas Mars from Phoenix, is a woozy stoner ballad, with interjections from Hugo Ferran’s saxophone emulating Dick Parry’s key moments on Us And Them. Short, sensitive pieces follow, working on two levels. The tone supports Coppola’s sad, mysterious movie, while on its own terms it hangs together as a sombre, often sublime journey into downtempo reverie. Like much of Floyd’s oeuvre – and we’re talking more Gilmour than Waters here – it hovers just the right distance above ‘depressing’ and finds the sweet spot of melancholy that’s magical. There are a few steps along Abbey Road too. Air were concerned, they once told me, that people were pigeonholing them as “French funnies, cartoons of easy listening”, and wanted to do something “mature”. Fans of Morricone, they were also aware that France had a proud heritage of film composers and a less proud history of rock music. The Virgin Suicides, necessarily given the film’s themes, was darker, laced with a whiff of tragedy, but without sacrificing the sheer sensuous pleasure of their honed, analogue-keyboard-washed sound. It’s on its way to save us again.** **

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.