David Browne
February 21, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Original Motion Picture Score for the Virgin Suicides

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B+

Few bands have exhibited a lighter touch than the French kitsch-pop ensemble Air, whose take on drowse-and-bass is downright cute; on ”Moon Safari,” they made their old-school synthesizers sound cuddly. Following a rarities set, their latest not-quite-follow-up to 1998’s ”Moon Safari” is a score of their own — in this case, to director Sofia Coppola’s film version of the darkly comic novel ”The Virgin Suicides.” A collection of predominantly short, somber instrumental pieces, the album, like ”Moon Safari,” is built around layers of textured keyboards. This time, though, the music is shrouded in a sort of smoke-machine haze, giving the record the feel of a great lost art-rock album of the ’70s. (Note to boomers: It’s your kids’ variation on Tangerine Dream.)

The Original Motion Picture Score for the Virgin Suicides is hardly a major work; several tracks recycle the elegiac main theme, and you miss the occasional vocal that enhanced ”Moon Safari.” But it earmarks Air as leaders in the world of electronica scores while providing a valuable lesson in the creative potential of background music. As accompaniment for a film about the self-inflicted deaths of a group of suburban girls, ”The Virgin Suicides” is both comely and unsettling. ”Dirty Trips” works itself up into a frenzy, like Muzak throwing a temper tantrum, while ”Bathroom Girl” breaks into cheesy ’70s-rock bombast, complete with a cornball arena-rock guitar fanfare. Air never forget the moment at which mood music becomes moody music. B+

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