Arling & Cameron: Music for Imaginary Films


By Rob McLaughlin

I wonder if Air knew how influential Moon Safari would go on to be when they released it back in 1998. Their cut and collage aesthetic-mixing lounge, exotica, disco, new wave, space pop, retro soundtrack and current electronica influences, resulted in a surprisingly cohesive and instantly endearing album—with all those musical styles at work at once, how could you not find something to love? They were borrowers, sure, but the method in which they seamlessly intertwined what they took from the past brought about a singular, confounding entertainment—one that simultaneously sounded like everything and nothing you’ve ever heard before.

Arling and Cameron are pupils of Air’s school of musical pastiche, and their second full-length release, Music for Imaginary Films, jumps through just as many genre hula-hoops as Moon Safari. It’s not as otherworldly or intricately plotted, but it is just as playful and agreeable, perfect for igniting a party or bopping around to while gussying up for Saturday night play.

Where as every song on Safari was laced with myriad sounds of yesteryear, the tracks on Imaginary Films all stand singularly alone in each particular musical imprint—“Hermann” sounds like something off the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack, the cocktail mix of “Zona Sul” is very “Girl From Ipanema” and “The Only Guy” is reminiscent of “I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” from A Clockwork Orange. With all these cinematic flashbacks, the duo maybe should have thought about including the word “inspired” somewhere in the title of this visual-friendly work. The standout song, and the one that rings with the most post-modern originality, is “Hashi.” It recalls both a pop standard and an old Broadway show tune—Judy Garland would have worked wonders with it—but the lyrics, about a drug-sniffing airport canine, serve as a cheeky reminder to the duo’s fans to be overly cautious when traveling with party favors.

Sure, Air played a big part in kicking off this massive recycling drive, and yes, there have been similar artists and flat-out imitators whose works should have been left in the studio (Cassius’ 1999 anyone?), but don’t lump Arling and Cameron into the throwaway pile. Yes, kitsch has been played out to the extreme in today’s popular culture, but Music for Imaginary Films is a worthy, warm addition to the near-capacity canon, one that wants nothing more than to make you smile, swing and forget about the hellish week you had. It might just be one of 2000’s best aural prescription for your overworked mind and body.

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