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A Fresh Breath Of Air

Its been more than 10 years since Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel first unleashed 1998s Moon Safari upon an unsuspecting world, garnering rapturous critical acclaim for their chilled-out sci-fi soundtracks full of fluttery arpeggios, oozing vocoders, and cryptic vocals about sexy boys. Since then, the duo has stayed in the public eye through their numerous collaborations with Sofia Coppola, most notably on The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, as well as with four experimental albums in which theyve toyed with a diverse range of moods and approaches. Their latest album, the self-produced Love 2, feels like a new beginning for the band: its hard to recall a phase in which theyve ever sounded so exuberant. In order to suss out the reasons for this new lease on life, we talked with Nicolas Godin about their space-age new recording studio, the woes of owning a record label, and the myriad advantages to having telepathic gifts. Out: This is the first album youve recording at your very own state-of-the-art recording facility, Atlas Studio. Pitchfork Media recently imagined that its the most luxurious recording studio on the planet. Are they right? Nicolas Godin: Yes -- its amazing, actually. Basically, weve been through a lot of studios over the last 10 years, and we took what we liked from each and put all of the elements together in our own studio. Its like the dream of a child. I never thought thered be a place like it, and I cant believe it. It looks like a spaceship from Star Wars, but its full of Stevie Wonders equipment; its full of the most amazing drum machines and keyboards. Why did you decide to produce the album yourselves after working with Nigel Godrich, the famed producer whos worked with Radiohead and The Divine Comedy? We wanted to feel credible again, and feel young again, so we decided that we didnt want to do any collaborations on this album; we wanted it to be just the two of us. Whats up with naming the album Love 2? Is there anything to that? There is. Were fascinated by the fact that every time you start a new love affair, it feels like the very first time. Its crazy to us how love seems to regenerate itself every time, over and over. You seem to have stripped out a lot of the darkness from previous ventures in favor of lighter, more summery fare. Songs like Do The Joy and Heavens Light have a very sunny, science fiction feel like the Dr. Who theme song just took a hit of Ecstasy. Well, I was very, very depressed when we recorded Pocket Symphony. It felt like we just didnt have any energy left for that album. Now, we have this brand-new recording space, and we feel like we have nothing left to prove. This time, I feel like things really came together for us. Before this album, we were always scared of dating ourselves, or sounding dated. We were scared of using drum machines -- because if I hear a particular snare drum, I can tell you exactly what year the album came out. But now we just dont care, and I dont know why. Can you describe your working process to me? I read that 2004s Talkie Walkie was named after this weird telepathic sense of communication the two of you have while working. Right. Thats still very accurate, I think. We just dont talk to each other much while making the music. We really do most of our communication through sounds. Were using a lot of different instruments this time around, and when were creating a new song, everything goes so fast that when I listen to the tracks later, its very hard to remember how they were even born. Weve always worked very instinctually. We wake up in the morning and get to work, and when we record, its very easy to immediately forget what weve just done. Moon Safari just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. How does that make you feel? It was very cool. We celebrated that in Sydney with two shows at the Opera House, and were very proud that its considered a classic album. Honestly, I dont know if its an amazing album, but its definitely considered a cult classic. That was always my dream as a child -- to do that at least once in my life. Youve collaborated with Sofia Coppola three times, most memorably on The Virgin Suicides but you contributed songs to Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette as well. Any plans to work with her again? Right now, were working on a new movie -- not with her, but with somebody else. Basically, what we want to do now is create an entire score, not just part of it. Its okay if people want to ask for small bits, but we really want to do an entire score in the traditional way. Right now, were working on a film adaptation of Distant Neighborhood, the graphic novel by Jiro Taniguchi. The film would transpose the action of the Japanese book over to France in the '60s. Youre both going on tour soon. Can you tell me what fans can expect from this show? Well, basically, the two of us are going to be playing with the live drummer on the album, Joey Waronker. We always have a great time playing live, and I think for the first time, the actual album is reflecting the same energy as our live shows. Its going to be just the three of us; I really like the spirit and the magic that happens between the three of us. Jean-Benoit and I have been playing music live since childhood, and with the addition of the drummer, I think the shows going to be amazing. I really want to push the concept as far as it can go. How are things going with your record label, Record Makers? Oh, we gave that up! Really, there were just too many problems. I realized that when youre an artist, its hard to have a business relationship with other artists, because you sign them and then you dont want to deal with the business side, making all those decisions, carrying around all that worry every day. You end every day with a long meeting and then only have energy to work on your own music for five minutes before going to bed. So we gave the record label up -- and now my life is full of music. Love 2 is now available digitally and in stores.Send a letter to the editor about this article.
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