Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)

Air 

Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)

This album should come with an alarm clock and a straitjacket. Given the barbiturate-slow tempos and haunting atmospheres it conjures, one-third of listeners will likely be lulled into slumber and another third driven mad with deranged cosmic visions. But if you can stay awake and sane, you'll find that the cult-favorite French duo has assembled a tolerable palette of laid-back, retro-futurist electronica that lends itself to any number of situations: flying a spaceship, making love to an Atari video-game console or simply luxuriating in a claw-foot tub filled with morphine. On the album's most beguiling ballad, "Biological," male and female voices wistfully ponder love and attraction on a molecular level. "Alone in Kyoto," featured in Sofia Coppola's sublime film Lost in Translation, is a gorgeous, Asian-tinged instrumental that hums with Zen tranquility. And if you miss the '70s-soaked languor of T-Rex's most subdued numbers, "Venus" resurrects them with a dose of contemporary lounge cool. After that, things get muddled. Keyboards bleep, synths ooze intergalactic gel and quiet vocals sing space-age love songs, but most tunes sound rote and recycled. For a band so obsessed with the vastness of space and time, Air has made a surprisingly one-dimensional album. Longtime Air fans will note the absence of any exciting grooves (such as "Sexy Boy," from 1998's Moon Safari) or lush pop masterpieces (like "Playground Love," from the soundtrack to Coppola's directorial debut, 2000's The Virgin Suicides). By the end, it seems more and more as though Air is running out of steam.

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