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I want to patch my soul on your brain
-Air, from "Electronic Performers"

8,001 out of 10,000
Intelligent emotional machines keep cropping up in the great musical conversation. Grandaddy mourns the loss of robot Jed on The Sophtware Slump. The fine, multi-artist concept album Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel develops an argument for the equal treatment of machines. I can't think of where such contemplations might have come from (trying not to think of "Mr. Roboto"); it seems the new rockers aren't paranoid about these androids at all, but instead suggest that the computer is OK. Perhaps it's a natural devolution of the animal rights movement. I'm not going to take any sides on said movement, but I will say that animal righters would rather see entire generations of children suffer from horribly crippling and fatal diseases than see something fluffy get hurt. Soon it will be the toaster that needs protecting.

Personally, I think the legitimate song topics remain chicks, good times, and the sorrows their deprivation creates. Nonetheless, the conceit of human machines runs throughout 10,000 Hz Legend. "Meet my desire sensors…you want to fuse my affective circuits" is the sensual come-on of "Sex Born Poison." "Let's have an extended play together," they romance on "How Does It Make You Feel?" and, right off, on "Electronic Performers," they put it flat out, "We are electronics." I think all it adds up to is that Air's Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel like synthesizers, as well they should; they're very good with them.

Singing in French has been so done that not even a French band can do it anymore, so they've made use of a computer program to generate their lyrics, and at times, to recite them. The words get spacey to the point of being meaningless, or, even less, Bowiesque. But you wouldn't look to the French for good lyrics any more than you would for courage. That's just a horrible nationalistic put-down. I apologize. I'm sure there are some fine French lyricists.

What you look to Air for is the wonderful feeling they create. You relax while expanding to embrace the cosmos. It's that spacey, funky lull that baffles lesser musicians when it doesn't just coming pouring out of their vintage Moogs. It's called compositional skills, kids.

As might be expected, Air use the machines they employed so well on the wondrous Moon Safari, with The Virgin Suicides' expanded palette of guitars and piano to make a hybrid of the two albums. The sound is unique, classy, cool and detached. The little songs soothe and the big songs kiss the stars.

One device Air takes from Suicides is spoken narration, pumped through some weird filter. It was eerie and scary once; it's merely a creepy time killer now. "How Does It Make You Feel?" feels just like the track The Virgin Suicides after it was lifted from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." My friend Matt has a good story of how he went to sleep with Suicides still playing and woke up positive that the devil (really the eerie narration) was in his living room and the end of the world was at hand. You should hear him tell it, but we shouldn't have to hear croaking computer voices while waiting for Air's cool moments,

Speaking of cool moments, how about "Radio #1." It reminds me of Fred Milton, the dog poet from Lynda Barry's Marlys comic strip. "Your bottom is so #1! Wow!" It's this album's "Sexy Boy." As usual, the bass is heavy yet liquid, and it thumps hard under an ELO-type chorus. Hand claps and high hats kick in, and then, way over the mix, comes this sweet humming and crooning. The organic nature of this voice amidst all the processed fun is a stunning effect Air should play with more.

That organic nature is answered by the silly humanity that is Beck, blowing harmonica and singing on "The Vagabond." Air started the party with "Radio #1," but Beck brings a party of his own. He mumbles his low pigeon voice over whip-crack echo-synth effects, then screams, "Debra" style. It's a tribute to this collaboration that this track would sound equally in place on either artist's albums. Something alien to both would be even better, but we'll take what we can get. Meanwhile, on their contribution, "Sex Born Poison," Buffalo Daughter, with their Moog-drenched similarity to Air, get subsumed.

"People In The City" shows off everything that Air has done before. The computer lyrics (Allright, Godin and Dunckel probably wrote the words themselves) even add to the effect. There are also two fine synthesizer workouts, the second of which suggests an angry tidal wave of blurp. This song also has the first real "My goodness, they are such ponces!"-type moment that made Moon Safari seem so innocent.

Air could stand to recapture more of that album's melodicism, and they should ditch the spoken word. Still, this record has that lovely Air uplift, with quite a few memorable moments. Hell, Air even rock out for a bit of "Don't Be Light" before taking off for space once again.

-- Dan Kilian

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