The percussion is the standout feature of this album. At times deep and cavernous, at other times rolling and playful — the mood is difficult to read, much like the choppy, faded film of the 1902 French short “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” that inspired its creation.
Alone, the album would seem confused, and perhaps out of focus; but when considered alongside the film, the album makes more sense. As “The Virgin Suicides” taught us, Air excels at connecting a visual story and a musical experience.
The film was created by Georges Méliès, and though it was considered to be one of the most visually innovative films of its time, the narrative is dreamlike and disconnected, moving from one bizarre scene to the next. Though primitive in story, the science fiction film has lived on for over a century.
Thomas Edison’s filmmakers bootlegged the movie and brought it to America, and it has found a modern place in the imaginations of musicians such as Queen and the Smashing Pumpkins, and most recently in the Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film “Hugo.”
Though it was also originally released in a hand-colored version, all copies were lost. In 1933, a single, severely damaged, hand-colored version was discovered. In 1999, the Technicolor Lab of Los Angeles began a frame-by-frame restoration. Though only 14 minutes, the project took over 10 years to complete, and the colored version was released in May 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival. Air composed four songs for the soundtrack.
Having found inspiration, the French electronica duo decided to integrate the soundtrack into a full-length album. There is an antiquated feel to “Le Voyage Dans La Lune,” but within the duo’s own genre.
Air picks up a psychedelic rock feel in the last track of the album with a groovy bass and guitar combination in “Lava.” Oddly enough, though the last two songs are labeled as separate tracks, they play incongruously on the album, as though the fragile 18 seconds of “Homme lune” is merely the introduction to groovy, and sometimes abrasive, “Lava.”
It’s a ’70s electronica throwback, paired with an early 20th century French film. Inspired by the adventurous and futuristic imaginations of Jules Verne and HG Wells, the entire package is a trip.
And it’s a trip you can take for free. Find the album on Spotify and watch the 1902 version of “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” on YouTube.
Here are suggested tracks to watch with the film.
Who Am I Now?
If you watch the black and white version, and find yourself begging for more, you can purchase the special edition DVD/CD combo on Amazon.com. The special edition package is selling for around $15, and it includes the hand-colored version of the film as seen at the Cannes Film Festival with the Air soundtrack.