When Air’s Nicolas Godin released his debut solo album, Contrepoint (2015), he channelled the influence of Bach into a rich, resonant and hugely rewarding spread of musical explorations. One soundtrack (A Very Secret Service) later, Godin builds on equally fertile conceptual foundations for the follow-up. Released through Because Music, Concrete and Glass is an exquisitely crafted set of variations on architectural reference points: mounted with minimalist precision and delivered with an abundance of pop warmth, it finds Godin in his element, working seductive wonders with poise and style to spare.
For Godin, the album circles back to his formative work as half of ground-breaking French electronic group Air. Revered modern architect Le Corbusier was an influence on the young architecture graduate’s music, notably on his 1997 debut Modular Mix. Twenty-plus years later, Le Corbusier featured on a list of modernist architects Godin was invited to compose tributes for, tributes intended to be heard as the soundtrack to site-specific installations around the world.
In its soft ambient pulse and melting minimalism, lead track The Border is a perfect entry-point to Godin’s hymns to buildings, arranged and co-produced with Pierre Rousseau. Its levitating synths, vocoder vocals and scudding bass hove into view with understated elegance, all the better to accommodate the discreet slow-build of delicate details within. As with Air, Godin makes gorgeously light work of every angle: this is music that seems entirely unperturbed by gravity, occupying an elevated atmosphere of its own.
Elsewhere, the title-track’s clean synth lines, crisply apportioned arrangements and tender timpani offer another inviting entry-point, sculpted with architectural clarity. While Godin’s vocoder vocals also hark back to Air’s early work, the album accommodates a diverse spread of guest vocalists elsewhere. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor guests on the falsetto-soul dream-pop of Catch Yourself Falling, one of Godin’s sweetest melodies yet. Oxnard singer / activist Cola Boyy brings soul to the righteously engaged The Foundation; the squelchy synths and buoyant grooves burn slow, allowing the stealthy arrangements and message room to resonate. Psychedelic soul singer Kadhja Bonet sings with measured serenity over tremulous synths on We Forgot Love, while Russian experi-pop artist Kate NV brings a gracefully aching romanticism to the blissful swoon-pop of Back to Your Heart.
Additionally, Australian conceptual provocateur Kirin J Callinan contributes a vocal of restrained drama to Time on My Hands, a midnight-drift soft-pop ballad with a silky allure. One of the quickest tracks to record for the album, it emerged in collaborations between Los Angeles (”During some lively sessions in Mac DeMarco’s studio,” notes Godin) and Paris. After he missed his flight home, Callinan stayed in France for a day as the guitar solos were recorded, complementing the song's air of sleek luxuriousness.
Between its title-track and the sultry, smoky jazz stylings of closer Cité Radieuse, Concrete and Glass is an album that truly travels, in tune with its global pitch. For Godin, it marks another milestone in a musical journey that began when Air’s 1998 debut album, Moon Safari, became the sublimely weightless soundtrack of its time. For Concrete and Glass, Godin builds on his storied past with tremendous finesse, charm and fluency, opening fresh windows of perspective at every lovingly executed turn.