Never content: Air France and the quest for perfection

Yesterday marked the end of a great band.

Six years on from their debut EP, On Trade Winds, Gothenburg pop duo Air France announced on their Tumblr page that they’d split up. They did so in typically dignified fashion: no emails – to my knowledge at least – sent out to press, simply an honest message that explained that despite recording seven albums’ worth of material in the last four years, they didn’t consider any of it good enough to release.

It should be explained at this point that Air France didn’t release a lot of music – and this is part of the reason why they built up such a following in certain sections of the underground. In six years they’ve released two EPs (re-packaged and re-released as an “album” of sorts in 2009), and a handful of mp3s. Unthinkable for most bands in the glutted musical context that we’re all currently living in, but a strategy that worked, and a timely call for quality over quantity in the age of oversaturation.

Of course, to call this a strategy does Air France a disservice – the duo were simply perfectionists. They turned down a plethora of remix requests in their time, presumably out of fear that the end results wouldn’t match the high standards set by their early releases, and in a rare interview with XLR8R, openly admitted to suspecting that they’d left things “a little bit too late” for their eternally delayed, now presumably shelved debut album to be a success.

They did so with a reference to their buzz dying, but closer to the truth perhaps, is the fact that three years after On Trade Winds, countless American bands and producers started taking cues from Air France’s sample-heavy, polaroid-shot pop music and the “Summer of Chillwave” was upon us.

Ahead of their time musically, and opposed to the Internet age in their approach to quality control, Air France’s farewell statement is every bit as touching as their records, explaining that the same perfectionism that made them so respected in the underground is the same trait that finished them. “We have probably produced seven albums since No Way Down; a UK Garage record, a house record, an r ‘n’ b record”, it reads, “But we’ve never been able to finish anything, nothing was ever good enough. We have tried so hard, and we truly gave it all we had. And now we have decided to stop trying, even though it breaks our hearts.”

Air France aren’t the only ones with that attitude – I doubt I’m the only person who liked Blawan a whole lot more after reading this interview, for instance – but in their quest for perfection and their commitment to not releasing anything that wasn’t 100%, they were one of the last of a dying breed. And now, they’ve done just that.

Tom Lea

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