The two Parisians in Air have made a project of playing with the tension between tranquility and boredom, with neither condition in their view inherently more desirable than the other. To be nervous in relaxation and enlivened when bored—what could be a more French state of mind? The ways such tension has played out have varied since Air broke through in the late -’90s, but common to them all is a certain sense of slowness and lassitude, even when the pace breaks past a lounge-y saunter.
On first listen, the new Love 2 sounds like a sketch, a barely-there treatment for an album that would stand to be very good whenever it might happen to be finished. It’s disappointing, and a little dispiriting. But then, absent expectations for something more grand, Love 2 starts to open up to reveal little tricks tucked in corners and atmospheres that prove all the more powerful for their ineffability. Vocals are infrequent and mostly murmured, but there’s a lot of mood in the Serge Gainsbourg-like instrumental writhing and grinding of songs like “Do The Joy” and “So Light Is Her Footfall.” Electric pianos lope and spots of spy-movie guitar rip through delicate layers, and all throughout are suggestive bass lines that should be required listening for aspiring players, to show just how expressive—how seedy and spirited—bass lines can be. There are no songs as sticky as those on 2004’s Talkie Walkie and no commitment to an aesthetic as clear as on 2007’s Pocket Symphony, but Love 2 slithers beyond its sketchiness and proves ingratiating just the same.