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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

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Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

I remain, as I was in 2017, naïve about Air. What I do know, however, is that Air is a musical duo that is unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. While I’m curious to know more, I’m not sure I really want to know the individuals behind the music, for if I look behind the curtain will the magic that is Air, dissipate?

Perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic, but long-time readers will likely note that I tend to avoid discussing the artists directly and focus on their creative output instead. There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps if I knew more about their personal lives, such knowledge would deter me from appreciating their art. Similarly, if I know the artist’s meaning behind a song, can I then make it my own? I think there is a case-by-case argument to be made here that would provide validation to that thought process. Most importantly, however, I don’t know why I love music, I just do. Subjective Sounds allows me to explore the reasons why, but I’m also terrified of knowing the answer for when you know why you love something you can subsequently fall out of love with it. Hence, naivety is a blessing, rather than a curse, and with that in mind let’s allow our minds to explore the sonic wonderland provided by Air on their second album 10 000 Hz Legend.

Electronic Performer is a perfect song to commence the album with. The overall styling can be heard throughout the entire album, so it sets the listener up perfectly for what they’re about to experience. Yes, there are shifting segments in the song that may seem out-of-place once you have settled into a groove, but it isn’t disjointed enough that it feels like another, completely unique, song. 

How Does It Make You Feel? is a fantastic song. I adore that musicality as it is deep and moody. The spoken vocal overlay can be a little distracting, but Pink Floyd fans will appreciate the linkage between How Does It Make You Feel? and Keep Talking. While Pink Floyd acknowledged using samples of Stephen Hawking’s electronic voice, there is no detail in the digital liner notes relating to this aspect of the song. If anyone knows if they used samples or computer-generated sampling, I’d love to know as even a Google search yielded no specific information and the lack of knowledge has subsequently left me intrigued. 

Radio Number 1 gets the body moving to a beat that is welcome after the mellower tone of How Does It Make You Feel?. It’s a great song and while I may be critical of the vocal repetition, I find it thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, even the dramatic vocal shift throughout the second half of the song. Radio Number 1 is a little left-of-the-centre but perfectly suited to the type of music Air creates. 

The Vagabond is exceptional, and Beck truly takes this song to another level, not only with his written and sung vocals but with that harmonica that is amongst the greatest I’ve ever heard that little instrument played. If you enjoy this song, you should check out Beck’s 2002 Sea Change, as it’s almost an evolution from The Vagabond, albeit it with a more sombre tone. 

Radian reaches you internally. It’s a weird sensation when you feel the music infiltrating your body, rather than your ears and consciousness. Yes, it is the low tone that vibrates at a frequency that gives the body this response, one that is akin to goose bumps, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable. Seriously, sometimes words can’t describe the feeling, but I suggest turning the volume up because the first half of the song will affect you in a way that is near indescribable before morphing into a song that will encapsulate you in the soundstage and allow you to unwind following that internal body sensation. No, I’m not nuts, dear reader, this music is just that good!

Lucky And Unhappy isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t great either. A solid B-side and one which I feel could have been better with more focus on the vocal as the backing musicality becomes too repetitive. That said, there are some atmospheric elements in the soundstage, around the middle of the song, that builds throughout the second half and makes me wonder if this song shouldn’t have been an instrumental track. I guess I feel that I’m listening to two different songs here, both wonderful in their own right, but maybe not perfectly suited together. 

Sex Born Poison is exceptional! The musicality and vocal are initially presented so low, in a muted state, that it is spectacular. The shift in styling builds the soundstage dramatically and fills the room with sound whereby the speakers disappear, and you are taken on a sonic journey that paints an audible picture before returning you to the muted state. It is astonishingly good. 

People In The City is another fantastic song. I hope you’ve turned up the volume, it will help you enjoy this track thoroughly. When listening to this song I can’t help but wonder what Grace Jones could do with this song; obviously with a more vigorous rhythm. Nevertheless, People In The City is perfect just the way it is and is one of the best songs on the album. 

Wonder Milky Bitch has a killer twang and eerie soundstage that makes you sit up and take notice. Like all music, we too often listen to it in the background. May I suggest you buck the trend with Wonder Milky Bitch and the entire 10 000 Hz Legend album. You won’t regret it as this is one album that demands the listener’s attention as too much will be lost if you fail to focus.  

Don’t Be Light is a song that has elements I love and loathe. The introduction isn’t to my liking, but it then morphs into a style that I appreciate, followed again by a style that just doesn’t work. It is most certainly on the experimental side and while I’ve listened to the song numerous times, I still find that I’m not connecting with it in a manner that I would like. It’s far from a bad recording, but subjectively isn’t suited to me. How about you, dear reader, have you found a connection with Don’t Be Light?

Caramel Prisoner is the perfect song to close the album on as it’s reflective while also being inspirational. It certainly encourages me to listen to 10 000 Hz Legend again and stay within Air’s catalogue of music. 

Overall, 10 000 Hz Legend is a magical record that draws you in from the moment it commences. The soundstage, mix, and mastering are extraordinary and in my subjective opinion, Air is the modern-day equivalent of a Pink Floyd, a David Bowie, or a Brian Eno; experimenting with sound and making sometimes nonsensical elements meld together beautifully. Yes, there are other modern peers, specifically Beck, but he appears on 10 000 Hz Legend lyrically and vocally on The Vagabond and in a vocal capacity on Don’t Be Light, hence that comparison is rather evident. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the aforementioned artists or are interested in the genres of Space Rock, Experimental Music, Progressive Rock, or Electronic Music, you’re going to love 10 000 Hz Legend

For this review, I listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) and Apple Music streams. Both present the album superbly with TIDAL having a slightly greater depth and separation between elements. That said, if you’re not comparing the streams side-by-side, you’d be thoroughly happy with either offering. Although, I do feel the vinyl release would trump all others as the analogue nature of the format would further enhance the sonic prowess of 10 000 Hz Legend. Plus, that stunning artwork really demands a larger canvas. 

10 000 Hz Legend is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 000 Hz Legend is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.  

Click here to read other Air reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Air - Talkie Walkie (Album Review)

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Air - Talkie Walkie (Album Review)

Unless I plagiarise the artist information from TIDAL, I have absolutely no background information to share regarding the French band Air as, until recently, I didn’t even know they existed. I merely saw Talkie Walkie at my local record store and made a mental note to check it out.

The cover artwork is intriguingly bland, yet it is strangely compelling. What are these two musicians looking at? Why are there mathematical formulas in the background? Well, math was never my forte, hence it is pure gibberish to me. Although, it does make me feel more intelligent by mere association. Remember when Encyclopedia ownership was a sign that one was well-read and intelligent? Similarly, vinyl ownership also has an air (no pun intended) of superiority. The more unique a collection, the more knowledgeable one must be about music. While I don’t intend to claim any superior knowledge, I do love sharing my subjective opinions on the music that touches my soul. Hence, it is time to explore Air's Walkie Talkie album.

Venus is sonically relaxing and nothing but a pure pleasure to listen to. The composition is dynamically layered, thereby creating a beautiful soundstage that envelops the listener.

Cherry Blossom Girl continues the Easy Listening style and is simply gorgeous. It has a vocal overlapping harmony that reminds me of the style used by the Bee Gees. The soundstage is massive and audibly creates a painters palette of sonic imagery for the mind to interpret. It is exceptional!

Run shifts the musicality to a more eerie feeling with elements reminiscent of Enya's musical style. It isn't a bad song but, while I appreciate the Enya-inspired harmonics, the eeriness of the track results in mental confusion that prevents relaxation.

Universal Traveller has a gorgeous musical introduction and rhythmic beat throughout the entire song. This is a perfect song to listen to via a good set of headphones and a dedicated headphone amplifier/DAC. Your ears will thank you! However, if you don't like repetition in music, you may want to give this song a miss as the harmonious lyrical context is repeated ad nauseam.

Mike Mills is a sensational sonic wonderland!

Surfing On A Rocket is a killer track. If you only listen to one song, make it this one. It is certainly one of the best songs on the album and while the lyrical content is repetitive, it is never dull.

Another Day has me swaying, toe-tapping, and head-bopping. In this case, actions speak louder than any words I could write.

Alpha Beta Gaga has an interesting introduction that is unlike any other song on the album. While it has taken a few listens for me to truly enjoy this composition, my daughter was immediately drawn to it as she has proclaimed her love for this track in particular. The whistle element, instead of lyrical delivery, is superb and you will find yourself whistling along without a second thought. I have a feeling that is what makes it so appealing to my daughter.

Biological is a quirky song and I find the distorted bounce beat to be rather distracting. I understand the intention, I just don’t feel it works well. While Biological isn't my favourite song on the album, it doesn't feel alien to the overall theme or musicality of the album.

Alone In Kyoto is another wondrous sonic presentation that closes the album out beautifully. Without a doubt, I feel compelled to listen to the album again and explore more of Air's catalogue.

Talkie Walkie is an incredible sonic journey that just about any music lover will appreciate. I know that I do, and I continue to listen to this album on repeat. It is really that good!

For this review, I listened to the 16/44.1 kHz TIDAL Hi-Fi edition. Perfection is not a term I use lightly when it comes to mastering, but it is nothing short of sonic perfection. I would love to hear Talkie Walkie in MQA, but it isn’t currently available. Fingers crossed we won't have to wait too long for it to appear as a TIDAL Master. In the meantime, the CD-quality edition will have to suffice; that is until I track down a copy on vinyl.

Talkie Walkie is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, the album can also be heard on Spotify and Apple Music.

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