Air — Casanova 70. The story of the band’s first trip hop single

George Palladev 16.04.2020

Air — Casanova 70. The story of the band’s first trip hop single

This is how Air sounded before turning to psychedelia. In 1995, Parisian clubs were shaken by fast house and techno music brought by the Brits from overseas. At the same time, the English found a word for their own quiet hazy music—trip hop. France began to look for something similar. Nicolas Godin’s friends from the Source label gave him the opportunity to record a track for them. They knew he was playing with the equipment, and since Nicolas couldn’t make any fast club music, he agreed to make a trip hop track.

“I had just one sampler and with, like, maybe two or five seconds of sampling memory in it. Basically, I had to make a drum loop and I was not good at that. Especially I admire hip hop bands and they were making great loops, and I was a guy from Versailles and I didn’t know to make a great hip hop loop, it’s not my culture. I went in a friend’s house and I record some drums for like ten minutes, the same beat, and I put them in the cassettes and then I went back home and in the ten minutes I can isolate it back for three seconds. Maybe less than that, maybe one second and a half.

AIR Band: Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin. Photo from Moon Safari era.

That was playing rhythm. I looped it with a sampler, and I did a bassline, and I put two root chords and some samples, and then that was it. The memory was full. I had just two chords and the only way I can make this very interesting, because you had to make a six or seven minutes long of the song, but you cannot make the songs evaluating. The only thing I could do was to make some cuts or to put some effects, some delays, start putting some life, and you can create a life in a song.”

Godin was studying architecture and saw music as another way to work with space. This is exactly what the Modulor Mix is about. It’s named after the system of proportions by Le Corbusier. Godin, at the age of 25, decided that this type of music should be played in this type of building. In general, Modulor wasn’t so much about music, but rather about sound design. The album was soon released on the number one trip hop label, the British Mo’Wax. The second track, Casanova 70, ordered in 1996, was recorded by gathering friends and their instruments. One of the members was keyboardist and mathematician Jean-Benoît, who completed the Air duo for many, many years. “At the beginning, we were just working at Nicola’s apartment. We had no studio, and we wanted to be professional, but we had no professional equipment, so we tried to do with we had. We had only one sampler, one 8-track recorder, two keyboards, two drum boxes, and that’s it. It was very simple.”

In today’s issue, the full one-hour edition of Modulor and Casanova, which in the past came out with trip hop remixes by DJ Cam, unexpectedly warm jazzstep by Source Direct, a noisy mess by Brendan Lynch, and a funk variation by Etienne De Crécy.