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Air leaves fans breathless

Air leaves fans breathless — JB Dunckel, one half of the French duo, talks about why he’s so successful

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JB Dunckel, half of the French ambient-pop duo Air, is as understated as his oxygen-light music. Describing the creation of Air’s debut album, Moon Safari — a complex concoction that blends spacey, Pink Floyd-style grooves with a mellow ’50s-lounge vibe and the slick impersonality of a Richard Carpenter arrangement — he merely says, ”It was not very simple.” Weighing his decidedly noncommercial band’s chances for global domination, he concedes that ”we are not like the Spice Girls.” You can almost hear him shrug. But don’t be fooled by Dunckel’s Gallic cool: Air’s ultra-stylish mood music (”It’s easy to listen to, but it’s not easy listening,” he insists) is floating its way to rave reviews and famous fans. Madonna recently proclaimed Moon Safari one of her fave albums of the moment, while Beck just released a remix of the Air single ”Sexy Boy.”

Why are Air so hot? With a battery of antique keyboards and cheesy robot vocal effects, Dunckel, 27, and partner Nicolas Godin, 27, have created an album that is, as Dunckel puts it, ”relaxing, [best heard] in the morning when you wake up or when you want to sleep or when you’re very upset and you want to feel some peace and some quiet.” But Moon Safari‘s no mere sleep aid. There’s a distinctly unsettling anonymity to it, making you wonder about the personalities that lurk beneath the shiny surface. It’s an effect not lost on Dunckel: ”Guys who are able to do very hard, violent music, most of the time those kind of guys are very sweet, relaxed, with no problems, you know? With us, it is the contrary, because we are doing very sweet music. That means we are very violent. We are, in fact, psycho killers.”

Qu’est-ce que c’est?