Album: Air, Love 2 (Virgin)

Love 2 is a return to the source for "Air French Band". (It's so much more satisfying to call them that awkward album-sticker name, don't you think? Just as the disambiguating "The London Suede" is actually a better name than Suede.)

On their fifth studio album – sixth, if you include the Virgin Suicides soundtrack – you won't find celebrity collaborators, and you won't find crazy Japanese instruments. Instead, Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin have returned to the womb-like analogue warmth of their favourite tools – Moogs and fuzz boxes, Theremins and school recorders – to create a coherent suite of mood music that is both heady and intricate, with pretty efflorescences and overpowering climaxes, but essentially utopian and optimistic. It cements their place as a kind of Franco-Kraftwerk (right down to the fact that Love 2 was recorded in their own Kling Klang-style purpose-built studio, Atlas, in the banlieues of Paris).

Another thing you won't find here is a hit. The single "Sing Sang Sung", featuring the gamine gambolling of an uncredited female vocalist, is the closest thing to a pop song, but there's no "Kelly Watch the Stars" or "Sexy Boy" here, not even a "Cherry Blossom Girl" or "Wonder Milky Bitch".

There is, though, plenty of other-worldly strangeness, right from the start. Opening track "Do the Joy" (available as a free download at www.aircheology.com) sounds like the story of the proliferation of life on Earth told in a dispassionate "for mash, get Smash" robo-voice, but it's so mangled that it might be about something else entirely. "Love" is a reprise of the bossa-disco beat of George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" with breathy autotuned imprecations over the top. "Tropical Disease" sounds like stock library music from a composer who was undergoing some sort of apocalyptic breakdown, while "So Light Is Her Footfall" could be an out-take from Serge Gainsbourg's concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson.

Any listener who has drifted away from the duo since Moon Safari won't be disappointed if they choose this moment to dip back into Air's hermetic universe.

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