Air “Mer Du Japon”

Guillame de la Perriere
Add Date:
June 20, 2007


Greetings to all of my music video programming brethren! It’s Andy Gesner and the staff from HIP Video Promo bringing you another mesmerizing audio-visual opus from the stellar European import Air. We got our copy of Pocket Symphony, the fifth full-length from Air, in early March, and it hasn’t left our CD changer since. We continue to find it the most satisfying and rewarding entry in the duo’s heralded catalog – a heady mixture of the band’s experimental and accessible sounds, and, thanks to Nigel Godrich’s warm, wide-open production, a thrilling listen. Apparently, we’re not alone: Pocket Symphony made its debut in the U.S. Top 40 (a first for Air) and went on to top the American electronic-music charts. Guest appearances by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon (on the moving “Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping”) and Jarvis Cocker (on the atmospheric “One Hell Of A Party”) have drawn media attention, as have the dazzling instrumentals and the group’s use of traditional Japanese koto and shamisen. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel remain masterful musicians, tastefully blending percussion, machine drums and digital synth with tastefully-struck pianos and feather-light six-string. “Once Upon A Time”, the lead single, is a dramatic soundtrack in search of a worthy film; given Air’s lengthy licensing track record, we doubt that the search will be long.

But our favorite cut on Pocket Symphony is “Mer du Japon”. As Dunckel whispers about madness in French and Japanese, Godin scrawls out guitar lines reminiscent of Walter Becker and contributes a bass and drum throb that grounds the track in trippy Pink Floyd territory. “Mer du Japon” contains everything that makes Air so unforgettable: delicate electric piano filigree, treated (yet invariably emotive) vocals that seem to speak directly to the unconscious mind, gorgeous harmonies, melodies and countermelodies, and a surprisingly rocking core.

Everything that Air does is artful, and everything they record invites accompaniment, commentary, and reinterpretation. Thus, it’s neither incongruous nor unexpected to see traditional ballet and contemporary dance coupled with their music. For the “Mer du Japon” clip, Air has called upon the talents of countryman Angelin Preljocaj – a man internationally recognized as one of the world’s most imaginative choreographers, and a winner of the Prix Benois de la Dance for innovative dance. Preljocaj’s ballet is simultaneously contemporary and classical, passionately expressive, drawing on reserves of mystery, grace, and strength. In short, his spirit is kindred to Godin’s and Dunckel’s, and he’s a natural interlocutor for Air’s sonic poetry.

The “Mer du Japon” clip is, in classic terms, a pas de deux: a duet performed by two dancers who, through motion and gesture, communicate to the viewer something vital about their relationship. Thanks to computer-video assistance, Air’s two ballerinas – one European and the other Japanese – aren’t confined to a stage; instead, they perform before a setting that resembles a gigantic aquarium. Air bubbles and sea serpents slide around them as they dance, and hovering in the background, as if seen in a dream, Godin and Dunckel are visible in profile. But the emphasis here is on the two women, and rightfully so – both Celine Galli and Nagisa Shinai have worked with Preljocaj before, and both execute that powerful sureness of motion that is so characteristic of his choreography. Their dance is sexualized from the start; exploratory, sinuous, revealing, hypnotic. When Shinai holds Galli’s face and kisses her French partner, the film seems to freeze. But even as their lips meet, their bodies are still moving – their two bodies rise up to meet the sky, and the dance continues.

We are brimming with excitement to be teamed up with the terrific folks at Astralwerks once again to bring you the second half of the Air one-two punch “Mer Du Japon.” This video looks to be another wave in a sea of hits from the label that brought you The Kooks, Radio 4, and of course, Air’s first enthralling clip: “Once Upon A Time.” If you need more info or would like to get your hands on some copies of Pocket Symphony, call Andy Gesner at 732-613-1779 or e-mail us You can also visit, or to find out more about Air.

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For info about Air’s previous video, “Once Upon A Time” click HERE