Is it Live, Electronic or What?
Though AIR''s music bears all the trademarks of classic electronica—heavily layered synths, artificial-sounding vocals and cut-up beats—their production process is actually as old-school as the proverbial hills.
“Everything is played by our hands and recorded live at our Atlas Studio,” bassist Nicolas Godin says. “It''s all live. At one point, in ‘You Can Tell It to Everybody,'' drummer Joey Waronker thought he had to stop but then he realized he had to keep playing, so he continued. And he didn''t know how to finish so he stopped again, and we kept everything. But we sound electronic because we came through the French Touch window of the late '90s; that was all about house music and home studio recording, groups like Daft Punk [and Cassius and Stardust]. The Source Lab compilations [released by Astralwerks in the U.S.] were all about trip-hop.”
AIR keyboardist and vocalist Jean-Benoit Dunckel further explains the duo''s enigmatic sound. Whether musicians or not, when you come of age during a musical scene (then brazenly called the “electronic revolution”) marked by samplers and home recording, you learn the tools of the trade and the sonic currency involved. “When you don''t have a lot of memory in your sampler, the only thing you can do to make a song come alive is do some cuts and some filters,” Dunckel says. “We started that way, but we were musicians from the beginning—musicians using samplers. Then we sold more records and bought better equipment and we became a better live band. The first show I ever did was for Moon Safari. We toured for 10 years, so now of course there is more of a live aspect. But even in the sampler we recorded a lot of stuff live.
“But it''s true, we sound electronic,” he adds. “For Moon Safari, we didn''t use any drums because we wanted the album to sound timeless. And drums are something you can date on an album very easily. But now we''re not afraid anymore to sound timeless because we''ve done so many records. We have no fear. We don''t care. We''re not scared to record live.”