Nicolas Godin “Contrepoint”
While their Parisian colleagues of Daft Punk have been hiding from the public’s eye for years under their helmets, Air are pretty much the poster boys for French pop music. That means that they ought to be familiar faces for you, however, it seems that their names are not all that well known after all. I at least had to resort to the internet to find out that Nicolas Godin makes for one half of Air. “Contrepoint” is the name of his debut album as a solo artist – an album that is very ambitious and inspired by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach and Glenn Gould.
All this information firstly causes great fears. Air were after all also prone to getting on your nerves with their dramatic narcissism and the first track of the album, “Orca”, reinforces just that exact sentiment: it’s been a long time that I have heard an opener that was just as annoying as this shrill exaggerated version of a electro-guitar-symphony. With that in mind, the tendency to just get this review over with prevails. However, it is as if someone suddenly addresses the author in a deus ex machina manner, telling him: Stand firm against sin / otherwise its poison seizes hold of you / Do not let Satan blind you.”
You have to respect Godin’s fearless approach to Bach and Gould. Absolutely anything seems possible: why not interpret Bach’s church cantata “Stand firm against Sin” as expressionist theatre in the style of Klaus Nomi? Or create a radio play (“Glenn”) that may well have been done by Sparks? And how about picking up on sound motifs of classical music in a wild emotional dance in “Bach Off” and then breaking them up and contrasting them with South American stylistics?
Naturally not every track on the album is designed to push boundaries as much as the ones mentioned above: “Club Nine” delivers up-beat club-vibes in a manner very close to Air; “Clara” is located somewhere in the cheesy border regions between Italian and French pop music; the same goes for the wonderfully predictable post-disco-esque “Quei Due”. Godin closes the album in a sacral fashion with “Elfe Man”. As sceptical as I remain as to how often I will actually end up listening to this album, as equally fascinated am I by how fearless Godin went about creating his album.