with SEBASTIEN TELLIER at Kool Haus (132 Queen's Quay East), Wednesday (June 27). $22.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
air understand that nothingsounds quite like excess.The Paris duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel have spared little on their epic new 10,000 Hz Legend disc. Computer voices cooing about true love, massive, 40-piece choirs, sweeping string sections, the best Beck song the Los Angeles alt-folkie never wrote and a Lee Hazelwood-style ditty about blow jobs are all now part of the mix.
It's a recording as gloriously self-indulgent as Air's hugely popular Moon Safari album was minimal -- very Pink Floyd and the logical extension of the group's soundtrack for Sofia Coppola's film, The Virgin Suicides.
Air's experiment in 70s fantasy rock has earned some very harsh reviews, and many fans now blow the group off as a bunch of prog posers. Godin and Dunckel's current habit of wearing hooded capes onstage hasn't helped matters.
"I think people have to realize that there is nothing to expect from us," Godin responds from Paris. "People thought Moon Safari was our personality, but that was just a snapshot. This record sounds nothing like what we've done before, and that's what I like.
"The success of Moon Safari turned into a routine. J-B and I were monkeys, stupid monkeys, and we were scared of that, so we decided to have a big electroshock. We wanted to escape from the success and the showbiz. We wanted that big shake, just to wake up and become excited again."
Much of 10,000 Hz Legend sounds like a response to the marathon tour Air went on in support of Moon Safari. Unlike the first album, which was done as a two-piece, the new record is a much more collaborative affair, with Dunckel and Godin acting as conductors for a revolving cast of support musicians.
Tracks like the towering Don't Be Light were actually built over the course of months, with each guest adding his or her own little bit of noise before they left the studio. Just because they got a few friends involved, though, you shouldn't suddenly confuse Air with a proper band.
"We're not a band," Godin spits. "We hate the idea of being a band. We hate bands, we hate pop and rock and we hate the stupidity of rock and roll. I think a band goes against creativity.
"We needed people because we wanted to have a big, big, big, big sound -- huge, fat, heavy and large but also very precise and dry. We liked how the old album sounded, but we wanted to find a new version of that. Virgin Suicides was us having a 70s sound. No year can be attached to 10,000 Hz Legend."
For all the money splashed out -- and Godin admits Air "spent money like it was free" -- there is an odd simplicity to 10,000 Hz Legend.
Strip away the layers, and most of the songs are built around a surprisingly plain acoustic guitar melody. It was only after a song was finished that Godin and Dunckel got their loopy ideas about singing to their computers.
"These are normal songs," Godin insists. "We wanted that simplicity. I realized that when I play acoustic guitar and put on electronic beats, it sounds beautiful together, much more than any other instrument.
"Once that little song was written, we would go mad. When we recorded the computer voice on How Does It Make You Feel, we wanted to have a freak-out with a 40-piece choir behind it."
Money was not a factor.
"We went to L.A., put together a classical choir and we made them sing to the computer.
"I think the best respect you can have for your computer is to spend a lot of money around it," he says without a hint of humour. "I believe our computers have feelings, and obviously we want to make them happy."