Album Review: Nicolas Godin – Concrete And Glass

Concrete And Glass

Summer, 2019: a crowd of muddy-legged fourty somethings are gathering in front of the main stage at the Bluedot festival, waiting patiently in the shadow of the Jodrell Bank radio telescope for a rare chance to see Kraftwerk, the ageing techno-Granddaddies who when playing live make up for in 3D effects what they lack these days in Teutonic twerking.

The album lullabying the crowd is Air’s Moon Safari, itself no spring chicken, but all around punters are wreathed in nostalgic smiles: stylish and effortless, French duo Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin had made their debut album like the soundtrack to an Alain Delon flick, filtered through a vintage analogue dream.

While it’s been eight years since the pair have released anything under the banner, both have been busy with solo careers. For Godin this began with the release in 2015 of Contrepoint, an offbeat collection of largely instrumentals inspired by the work of the classical composer Bach. If that suffered from the not uncommon fault of being better as an idea than a final product, on Concrete And Glass Godin has evidently decided to play it safer, reintroducing melody and bringing in a handful of guest vocalists. In the process, he’s evidently found Le Mojo.

The result is what you might imagine a new Air album would sound like: take for instance the sophisticated funk of The Foundation, its rumbling slap bass and whizzy synth swirls the height of grown-up pop, while Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor finds himself playing a winsome role on the delicately sculpted Catch Yourself Falling.

Concrete and Glass is in fact partially a celebration of Godin’s unlikely pre-musical life as an architecture graduate, but also more obviously of a welcome indulgence for his way with cinematic backdrops: the titular opener centres around an endlessly repeated set of phrases and watery notes, while Cite Radieuse eventually resolves from teeming cityscape to jazzy, sax inflected long goodbye.

It’s almost futile to point out that of course this approach goes against the musical grain of the new and previous decades. But Air themselves debuted as a fresh faced anachronism, so inevitably these songs find themselves open to the same critical flaws, that they’re either timeless or too effete depending on taste. Godin for his part seems to give little more than a Gallic shrug for all that, even rolling out the trusty vocoder not once but twice, on The Border and Turn Right, Turn Left respectively, while Kirin J Callinan adds some mystery to the louche, astrally smooth Time On My Hands.

Despite the pretence, Concrete And Glass is as much about people and memories as it is angles and reflections. As in the past, Nicolas Godin chooses to never really expose himself; for all it’s undoubted style, there’s still a certain emptiness to it’s undoubted chic.

Who knows how the good people of Cheshire will react to that.

6.5/10

Andy Peterson

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