Hanging With Air

So this is what those Pink Floyd boys meant when they told us to breathe, breathe in the air. Breathe in deep, indeed. It could be the only way to wrap your head around the indie-tronica lullabies of the Parisian pop geniuses Air.

The band, a two-man crew, consists of John-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin. Their sound however, is more difficult to name.

"Our music is like a Frisbee, but it never lands," Godin tells ABC News Now's "The Mix." It's as good an explanation as any. Dunckel is less esoteric — or maybe more?

"Air is an entity," he says. "It is not about our faces or characters. It is its other universe." "If a cabdriver asked me what type of music do you play? Well …" Godin pauses to consider the answer. Then he laughs. "I have no idea."

Air first spun Frisbee-like into the mainstream in 1998. That's when the video for "Sexy Boy," a top single off Air's masterpiece "Moon Safari" first made the rounds on MTV Europe.

The star of the music video, the "sexy boy" as it were, was actually a stuffed monkey. At times small and friendly, due for a hug and a peck, he turns with the crush of a menacing bass into a monster stalking the New York City skyline. Statement of intent — or four minutes of indie pop posing? You decide.

The video's not hard to find. Images of Godin and Dunkel's faces are much better hidden. They don't appear on any of their album covers. Instead, they sign their work with a moody swagger. Haute-hop we'll call it, for lack of a less-chic term. It was this strange mix. Think fairy tales cut with Kafka, which first drew the attention of Sofia Coppola.

Beguiled by the boys' tunes, Coppola commissioned Air to record the soundtrack for her film "The Virgin Suicides."

"She has a very original way of making soundtracks," Godin says. "She likes little bits of everything. So we don't know what it's like to score everything. We do music for special scenes."

Air wrote and recorded each of the 13 tracks on the soundtrack. The movie was is an indie-house noir hit and bought Coppola her own credibility.

"Lost in Translation" came next for the young auteur, and this time Coppola brought the band along for the shoot.

Time spent on location in Japan proved the impetus for Air's newest release.

It's called "Pocket Symphony," and it'll be the group's fourth proper studio album, the first since 2004's "Walkie Talkie." "We wanted to do something super relaxing and very modern," Dunckel says.

For Godard, the time spent in Asia with Coppola was like a key to the Far East. "We discovered this whole side of music," he says, "and we wanted to make a whole album of that."

"Pocket Symphony" was released in the United States March 6, 2007, and included guest vocals by Sheffield legend Jarvis Cocker, once of Pulp, and Neil Hannon. It has received mixed reviews. The most frequent complaint is that it has been put in the shade by their classic debut.

"People say, 'Isn't it too hard to get away from this record — "Moon Safari" — because it is a classic?'" Godin says in heavily accented English that's still better than your French. "I say I'm happy to have done one classic in my life."

That's not to say the three LPs that followed "Moon Safari" have been failures. French bands with one good album don't play the Theater at Madison Square Garden. But "Pocket Symphony" isn't the only new album that Air has a part in. The group recently worked with French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg on her first solo release.

Gainsbourg is the daughter of legendary singer Serge Gainsbourg and his film star wife, Jane Birkin. Serge Gainsbourg is a pillar of French music, but don't go mad looking for old clips of him singing "La Marseillaise" — unless you're hot for a reggae version. He's better known for songs like "Je t'aime … moi non plus" and "Lemon Incest." His daughter made a slightly controversial appearance in the latter video. Her mom is heard, history insists, in the first.

"We did an album for Charlotte. … She is an actress, very nice-looking and super-stylish," Dunckel says. "To me, it sounds classical, but because the songs are well produced and [Charlotte's] lyrics are very nice and very clever."

As for their American tour, they are playing alone — but for the soldout crowds at most of the venues they visit.

"We played in Washington, and there were girls dancing and they were expressing their love for us," Dunckel says. "They were dancing and shouting and applauding. Generally in America, it seems like people express more. Audiences express more than in Europe."

Godard agrees. "They have a positive attitude," he says. "They want to have fun when they see a show. ... When you go to one of our shows, for like one hour and a half, you forget all your problems. You forget where you are. You are just in another dimension. That is the point."

"I want to see people caressing themselves," Dunckel says.

It seems a reasonable request. But with conservative rule now taking hold in France, will the bon vivant be banished, along with the 35-hour work week, in the name of global economic progress?

If you ask the boys from Air, it might not be the worst thing.

"People in France are obsessed by the personal relationship between your boyfriend or girlfriend. It's a very narrow-minded country for that," Godin says.

"In America," he says -- where, we needn't remind you, 35 hours is knocked out by Wednesday night — "you work so much you forget about it. So you don't realize you have pain because you don't have the time."

It's an interesting theory, something new French President Nicolas Sarkozy might subscribe to. His wife was photographed kissing another man in New York last year. Don't feel bad, though. The president will be a busy man.

But to be safe, "The Mix" is going to airmail one copy of "Moon Safari" to the Palais de l'Élysée.