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Air 3 - AW 028 (also PK 08/116)
Release Date: 13 October 2003
Est-ce que l'amour fait mal? 18.53
Give Space a Trance 17.34
all tracks written by Pete Namlook
I don't like these endless series but this is really brilliant - gypsy/eastern influenced guitars and the French vocals with an upbeat final track. This is varied inventive and genuinely feels like some real time has been spent trying to produce a quality ambient record. Don't some people think these projects would be better with different titles - I get put off buying stuff like Jet Chamber 5 (!) when the different styles used would mean that different titles would be good.
(review by Rowland Atkinson)
This one I'm still getting used to, but basically it's slower overall than Air II and has more stylistic switchbacks than Air - a bit more experimental. I enjoy it when I listen to it, but I'm constantly fast-forwarding tracks two and four, or just getting tired of the CD after only 20 or 30 minutes - I really need to give it more attention (but Air I + II took my attention straight away so maybe my expectations are too high). rating (so far): 7/10.
(review by Michael Lekas)
I had very large expectations for the third in the AIR series. AIR 1 is one of my very favourite ambient CDs and AIR 2 rates very highly as well, both beautifully telling an ambient story with (French) words and Namlook synth twiddling.
AIR 3 was a disappointment for me. With the exception of the final part of "Give Space a Trance", which sees the Kuhlmann in pumping trance mode, I simply have not been able to "get into" this. In contrast two the previous two releases I found the constant percussion irritating and unsettling. The French samples used in 1 & 2 effectively added to the atmosphere, but here they seem out of place and irrelevant.
As a whole the album fails to meet the standards set by its predecessors, but with rumours of number four's release I can only wait with bated breath.
(review by Ian Ainslie)
If you like Air 1, 2 or Silence 1, 2, you'll like this. I can't think of any other albums/artists that are comparable. In some places it's reminiscent of Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre (read below), but only once or twice.
The opening track is very striking. Spacey, reverberating synth gives a stratospheric flight. Time to skin a spliff! It's soft and light and yet demands attention. A soft turkish flute, looping arpeggio synths, a touch of jazzy drum fill and little high-hat rhythms edge their way in and out, in their own time. Very nice minimal overture. Good harmonies. The second track kicks in with slow echoey drumming, soft and tribal. Nice little rifts and samples come in, softly, softly. It's quite a mysterious build up, like a soundtrack. Very calm, though. The rhythms build up over the original drumming in a jazzy techno way. Very neat and catchy. The listener is taken on a journey of easy-listening rhythm, full of little quirky effects and neat sounds. For a well structured track, it remains dynamic and experimental. Some Eastern tribal instrument blows away. Later there is a deep-throat croaking (like Outland's opening), along with little interludes and other quirky weirdness. Then we hear conversation between two French people getting it on. Hence the "Oui", or rather "Oui, oui, oui". It's not lurid, though. Very soft and sensual. A good spacey, tribal track. Est Ce Que L'Amour Fait Mal is close to the Air 1 tracks 1st Impression or Je Suis Triste et Seule Ici, in terms of rhythm. The warm feel of the previous track remains. It's quite a jazzy piece of music. Nice soft piano, a string instrument jammed slowly like a harp, that French female voice from earlier outings, with some guy whispering "Je t'aime". Also, the vocal-soprano type voice (from Silence - Garden Of Dreams or Air 2 - Trip 9) is here to complement and add to the rifts. That Eastern wind instrument gives a tribal feel from time to time. This track definitely passes a soft mood through the listeners (there should be two listeners with only one thing on their minds :-)). It's like something from a 60's movie - Rendezvous in French Hotel Room, or something. Give Space a Trance starts off as a very ambient space. This is where it resembles Eno, particularly the quiet tracks of Apollo, Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Very chilly blanket, with a quiet voice sample and a few sounds here and there. Then it raises it's pitch and begins to come to life. A rhythm comes in. Typical Namlook rhythm. Some Jarrish synth comes in. And that lovely 4Voice synth. It sounds a little Dark Side of the Moog-ish in terms of the minimal rhythm. Then a trancy beat begins to form around it. In places, it's a little Orbital meets Cosmic Baby. It has a German trance feel. But acid/techno sounds are replaced with more experimental, minimal stuff. Very neatly done. It has one foot on the danceroom floor, but is still chill out territory. It builds it melodies to a kicking finale, with the string instrument plucking along. Cross Trip 11 on Air 2 with Phantom Heart Brother Part 4 (Dark Side of the Moog 3) and trance it out a little. It's more thoughtful than cheesy. Good sign-off.
The album is very good, without being exactly gripping. Overall, it's a warm, jazzy, spacey outing. When I say jazz, by the way, I mean as in minimal, easy-listening Air 1, Air 2/Trip 1 type jazz. It may be a little too carefree for some, or not dark and chilling enough. But it is a well formulated album. It is very well put together, and some time was spent on it. You can tell. But you have to be in the mood for it. I just wish my French wasn't so rusty.
(review by Eddie O'Hanlon)
The name Pete Namlook should need no introduction for modern ambient fans--his remarkable Fax label was on the forefront of the early nineties ambient-techno explosion, releasing now classic work by Tetsu Inoue, David Moufang, Jonah Sharp, and many others. Namlook is also a gifted composer himself, arguably picking up Klaus Schulze's mantle for highly proficient space music creation. Namlook has become something of a legend in the intervening decade, due in part to his commitment to creating and promoting ambient and electronic music in a not always supportive environment. Namlook's work is numerous and often hard to find (as with a large number of Fax releases), which in turn sprouted legions of collectors and high prices that always result from low supply and high demand. While many Fax titles are perhaps not "worth" the prices paid for them, Namlook saw fit to create a reissue series of classic Fax titles to allow people to hear seminal releases like Inoue's Ambiant Otaku while not having to sell offspring to do it (I find the Ambient World reissue artwork to be much more aesthetically pleasing, as well.)
This brings me to Namlook's third installment of the Air series, subtitled "Secret Heritage" (originally released in 1999). For me, the Air series is Namlook's most appealing solo work, finding him creating music in a wide variety of styles with the least amount of filler material. While I've always felt Namlook's penchant for twenty-minute tracks has allowed him to fill entire CDs with less than stellar material, the first two installments of Air stand easily alongside classics of the ambient genre. "Secret Heritage" is a departure from the previous Air albums. While earlier albums were traditionally ethno-ambient, "Secret Heritage" seems more comfortable with ethno touches in an extremely light (some might say romantic) and listenable mid-tempo electronica setting. "Secret Heritage" is by no means vapid or "easy" music--but it does forgo some of the mystery of the early entries in the series in favor of an almost "pop" (as close as Namlook gets to pop, anyway) sensibility. But does it hold up?
"Secret Heritage" begins with a sprawling ambient track "Inauguration," somewhat similar in style to much of the previous Air material. The entrancing synth environments are punctuated with flute, drums, and cymbals, leading one to believe that this will be a colossal trip into deep space dreamtime. It's a fine track, highly focused, and rather unusual with jazzy drumming, similar to Grosskopf's work on Schulze's Moondawn. Track two, "Oui" completely changes the atmosphere from deep space to a more earthed terrain. The startling cover image--that of a beautiful woman drawn in the style of Jean "Moebius" Giraud--reminds us that this is less an album of space, and more a rumination on beauty and love (the quote on the inside of the booklet loosely translates to "You are beautiful ... so beautiful that to look at to you is to suffer!"). An insistent rhythm propels us through the ambience; ethnic claps and shakers eventually build to a full-on groove--accompanied by an attractive Middle Eastern-sounding wind instrument. Eventually, some sampled throat singing enters the fray--creating a strange mixture of cultures in this technoid setting; an ambient techno melting pot. Later, these vocals are triggered in such a way that they create a tune. This is a startlingly cheesy moment in the recording, as the power and nuance of throat singing is reduced to the nadir of a Deep Forest recording. Thankfully it does not last long. The final six minutes continue in much the same way, with excellent percussives (and a somewhat sexual underpinning sample) propelling you gently along to track three "Est ce que l'amour fait mal?" Here is perhaps the highlight of the album, featuring Namlook's jazz origins in full force. This is sweet, romantic music featuring synth vocals, French spoken word, strummed dulcimer, jazzy bass, the wind instrument from track two, and all manners of downtempo percussion. The music shifts subtly with marvelous transitions that never break the flow. Surely this is Namlook's idea of music to make love to. Finally, we are presented with a stylistic 180, as Namlook shifts back into ambient mode with "Give Space a Trance," beginning softly with interstellar ambience of the highest order. This music would not have been out of place on a Shades of Orion disc, at first. At around the five minute mark, Namlook switches to trance--reminding us that he made his name creating dance tracks. It's a great track, mixing beats and synth textures with "Garden of Dreams" style synth vocals. By the end, all of the previous Air series styles are mixed together in one breathtaking ambient-ethno-trance (with some fantastic dulcimer melodies) rocketship; an anthemic and highly satisfying ending to "Secret Heritage."
Though "Secret Heritage" never truly reaches the heights of previous installments of the Air series, it does offer some memorable examples of the best Namlook's work has to offer. While I've found most recent Fax output to be generally not to my tastes, "Secret Heritage" takes risks, and largely succeeds in creating a diverse, listenable, and, above all, sexy experience. While I might not recommend this particular work to Namlook/Fax beginners, "Secret Heritage" makes a usually satisfying confection for the ambient-techno aficionado.
(review by Brian Bieniowski)