Album: Air, Love 2 (Virgin)

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The Independent Culture

Air's course over the past decade has been rather mixed, with frequent lapses into unappetising prog-rock stodge, and a heavy-handed concept-album about electronic music that managed to drain away any excitement remaining in the subject.

But Love 2 represents, in part, a welcome return to the lighter touch of Moon Safari, with the hushed voice, soaring synth and simple but effective key-change of "Heaven's Light", in particular, reprising the winning alliance of amour and astronomy in their breakthrough hit "Sexy Boy". There's still a tendency to slip into incidental film-music mode, as with the pounding piano, guitar and motorik drums of "Be A Bee", and more successfully with the thumb piano and pipe sounds of "Tropical Disease", the latter is only one of a series of globe-trotting sonic simulacra. The best of these world-music manqués are the slinky synthetic bossa nova "Love" and "So Light Is Her Footfall", whose blended vocals could have been arranged by Sergio Mendes; less appealing is "Night Hunter", which opens with a rolling Fela Kuti beat, but fails to develop the full head of steam required to evoke a Kalakuta warrior charge. In this sense, it's the perfect illustration of the dilettante approach that deprives the duo's music of any lasting impression. But as background muzak, it's fine.

Download this: Heaven's Light, Love, So Light Is Her Footfall, Tropical Disease