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cover art
Jeux Dangereux

 Air V - Jeux Dangereux - PK 08/173
  Release Date: 25 November 2006
  Limitation: 500

   Happiness                     16.27
   Jeux dangereux                 7.22
   Obsessions                     9.53
   State of Mind                  5.19
   End of Line                    7.13
   Jeux dangereux (Reprise)       4.55

  all tracks written by Pete Namlook except 4 Pete Namlook, Tying Tiffany & G. Cerri
   DTS 5.1 Music Disc / Stereo CD Doublepack

Not dangerous enough, I'm afraid. Namlook's Air series started out as one of his most popular -- the first two volumes in particular are widely regarded as genuine ambient classics. But it's mostly been diminishing returns since then. This fifth volume has little in common with earlier offerings in the series, except for the routine French vocals (rather tiresome here) and the mix of moods. It's fairly listenable on its own terms, but it's hard to regard it as anything but diluted when compared to those true Air classics of yesteryear. And how can you not compare the entries in a chronological series like this? About the individual tracks:

"Happiness" is the longest track, clocking in at over 16 minutes. It's a promising beginning, featuring a spacey sonic landscape with electrified synth surges in the foreground going back and forth, as though you're standing next to some dangerous machine that makes the hairs on your arm stand up, from the power of that voltage. The drone in the background bears more than a little resemblance to that faux-alien sound they used to always use on the original Star Trek series, when Capt. Kirk and company beamed down to a strange planet. Eventually there are beats, and if you're relaxed enough, the atmosphere of this piece is fairly enjoyable.

"Jeux Dangereux" gives you a cha-cha rhythm, a bit of whistling, wordless female vocals and the expected French vocals, with some bird calls in the background for good measure. The sound quality is great, but the music fails to captivate—we've just heard a little too much of this kinda thing.

"Obsessions" is a fairly substantial ambient techno track which could be the strongest track. It's funky and dark, and the rhythm is solid. The main sonic element has that granulated, somewhat distorted sound that Namlook aficionados will recognize, and it's accompanied by snatches of weird pitch-shifted vocals and some vaguely Arabic interludes. Pretty cool.

"State of Mind" is the most trying number here, or should I say "tying," as in Tying Tiffany, the woman credited as co-composer on this piece. She sings actual lyrics, and unfortunately, for some of us that disqualifies this as ambient music. While the music itself is quite intriguing, and would've made this the most hypnotic track on the album if left as an instrumental, once those verses start, it's impossible to ignore them. "I want to believe/What do you say?/Something is real/And something is false," sings Tiffany in a sombre but girlish voice. I don't want to be too hard on her, as she clearly sounds fully engaged here, but..WTF? This is not a direction I'd want to encourage ol' Pete to pursue -- it's like second-rate trip hop. Tiffany may be foxy, but she isn't Fax-y here, at all.

"End of Line" is ambient techno with a four-on-the-floor rhythm -- although mostly synth-driven, there are nice bits of piano throughout. It's a decent but unexceptional track. Then we get a reprise of Track 2, minus the wordless female vocals. If you know your ballroom dancing, this kinda thing might inspire you to grab your partner in the living room and practice some fancy steps, but as ambient music, it falls short.

Bottom line: Air V is no classic. It has its moments, but it just doesn't belong in the same league or discussion as Air 1 or 2. It seldom aspires to anything but "Air-lite," and its generic multi-cultural aspirations fall short this time. The music is pleasant, yes, but this is at best a very spotty entry in a series most of us expected more from.

(review by Kevin Renick)


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